Now that we've gotten our first look at Seattle's newest crop of NFL talent at the rookie minicamp, I thought this would be a great time to look back at the top 10 rookie seasons in Seahawks history. One big (and somewhat scary) conclusion? Having a great rookie season doesn't automatically translate into a great career.Conversely, many all-time Seahawks greats didn't necessarily have stand-out rookie seasons. Here's what I consider the top rookie seasons in team history. Please let me know in the comments if I missed anything obvious.
10. Steve Largent (1976) I considered sliding Rick Mirer, Michael Boulware, John Carlson, Darrell Jackson, Doug Baldwin and even Brian Bosworth into this slot, but Largent's '76 season was the most deserving. Largent was a cast-off who probably only made an NFL roster because the Seahawks were a 1st-year expansion team, but he quickly became Seattle's ONLY reliable offensive threat. His 54 catches for 705 yards and 4 touchdowns seems pedestrian out of context, but becomes more impressive when you consider the disadvantage the expansion Hawks were at in their inaugural NFL campaign. He would also form a fruitful connection to quarterback Jim Zorn that would define the young Seahawks throughout the Jack Patera years.
9. Daryl Turner and 8. Fredd Young (1984) Turner's career was the definition of a "flame-out." After scoring 23 touchdowns in 1984-85, he was out of football by the start of the 1988 season. In '84 he was a classic deep threat. While he only caught 35 passes, ten of them went for touchdowns, and he averaged an astounding 20.4 yards per reception. Fredd Young would go on to become a Seattle fan favorite in the mid-80s as a linebacker, but in 1984 he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a dominant, fearsome special teams ace.
7. Bruce Irvin and 6. Bobby Wagner (2012) Pete Carroll and John Schneider hit it big in the 2012 draft (more on that below), and their first two picks helped turn the Seattle defense into the NFL's best. Wagner racked up 139 total tackles, two sacks and three interceptions. The Kiper-maligned Irvin was inconsistent, but still tallied eight sacks and helped Seattle field its most dangerous pass rush in years.
5. Earl Thomas (2010) ET appears to be on a Ring-of-Honor, if not Hall-of-Fame, trajectory. While Seattle's defense in 2010 was a mess (25th in points allowed), Thomas was a bright spot, hauling in five interceptions (including two in a huge upset win over San Diego) and giving all of us a preview of the devastation the Legion of Boom would eventually unleash upon the NFL.
4. Lofa Tatupu (2005) Tatupu's body eventually wore down and his career declined (and ended) prematurely, but his rookie year was spectacular. Tatupu anchored Seattle's Super Bowl-bound defense and was selected to the Pro Bowl (he was narrowly defeated by Shawn Merriman for DROY honors). His three interceptions in a Monday Night shutout of the Eagles is an indelible memory for millions of Twelves, as is his devastating hit on Carolina's Nick Goings in the NFC Championship Game.
3. Joey Galloway (1995) Even great wide receivers usually struggle in their rookie season, but Galloway EXPLODED upon the NFL scene in 1995 (which is even more remarkable given the people throwing the ball to him were Rick Mirer and John Friesz). Galloway caught 67 passes for 1039 yards and 7 TDs, but his most memorable moment from '95 was an 86 yard touchdown scamper on a reverse in a win at Jacksonville. Galloway was never really properly utilized by Dennis Erickson, and a contract dispute led to a season-marring holdout in 1999, followed by a trade to Dallas for two first round picks (one of which the Seahawks used to acquire Shaun Alexander- Thanks, Jerry!).
2. Curt Warner (1983) The Seahawks traded their 1983 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks to the Houston Oilers in order to acquire Penn State Running Back Curt Warner. I vividly remember Warner's first NFL carry: a 60-yard dash in the sweltering heat at Arrowhead Stadium. The Seahawks lost that day (because that's what they did in Kansas City back then), but Warner would rush for 1,449 yards (and add 42 catches for 325 yards) and 13 touchdowns. He'd lead the Seahawks to the AFC Championship Game that season, topping the AFC in rushing and winning a Pro Bowl spot along the way. If not for competition from Eric Dickerson and Dan Marino, Warner would have undoubtedly won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. A knee injury in the 1984 opener kept him from growing into a Barry Sanders-level all-time great, but he'd still go on to have three more 1000-yard seasons and two more Pro Bowl selections.
1. Russell Wilson (2012) This wasn't just the best rookie campaign in franchise history- It was one of the best seasons by any rookie in NFL annals. Not only did he lead Seattle to a 11-5 record and a playoff win, he also racked up an impressive list of accomplishments, including (but not limited to):
-A Pro Bowl selection -4th in the NFL in Passer Rating -4th in yards per pass attempt -2nd in touchdown percentage (for passing) -7th in completion percentage -3rd in the NFL in game winning drives (5) -The best single-season rushing performance by a quarterback in franchise history
When the Seattle Seahawks joined the NFC West in 2002, I was among the hordes of Twelves who wailed and moaned about being cast out of the AFC West. We bemoaned the death of our traditional rivalries, and the disrespect implied by being the only team forced to switch conferences as part of the NFL's realignment process. As usual, my hysterical overreaction was completely without justification. The move to the NFC West was one of the best things to ever happen to our franchise. We left a division in which we had a pathetic amount of success (only TWO division titles in 25 AFC West campaigns, and losing records against the Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs) to join one populated by the fading Niners, the aging Rams, and the historically forlorn Cardinals. The move paid dividends in less than two years with a Wild-Card berth in 2003, then division titles in five of the next seven seasons for Seattle. To be blunt, the Seahawks have pretty much owned the NFC West since they joined it in 2002.
The main irritant of our first decade in the NFC West was the laughable state of the division as a whole. During Seattle's run of four straight division crowns from 2004 to 2007, the Hawks were the only team in the West to even post a winning record. In 2010, NONE of the division's teams even reached 8-8, and 7-9 Seattle became the first team to make the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season. When your division is so bad it's inspiring talk of taking away automatic playoff bids for division champs, you've bottomed out.
2012 gave us the first glimpse of a stronger NFC West, with both Seattle and San Francisco winning 11 games and St. Louis going 4-1-1 within the division. After a flurry of free agency moves amounting to an "arms race" between the Hawks and Niners, and particularly strong drafts by Seattle, San Francisco AND St. Louis, the new conventional wisdom is that the NFC West might be the best division in football. In three years, our division has gone from laughingstock to juggernaut. What does this mean for your Seattle Seahawks?
The first thing that jumps out at me is how RARE it's been for the Hawks to be involved in a pitched battle between two or more elite teams for a division title. You know how many times the Seahawks have been involved in a divisional race that produced three teams that finished with 10 or more wins? Exactly twice. In 1984, Seattle finished 12-4, just ahead of the 11-5 Raiders and just behind the 13-3 Broncos. In 1986, the Hawks were edged out of the postseason by the 10-6 Chiefs and the 11-5 Broncos (DAMN YOU, ELWAY! DAMN YOU TO HELL!). I fully expect the 2013 NFC West to see a battle every bit as intense as the 1984 AFC West race- which means that the Seahawks could field one of the best squads in franchise history and STILL end up hitting the road in the playoffs.
That got me thinking about a larger historical question: Are Super Bowl Champions more likely to come out of competitive divisions populated by two or more playoff-caliber teams (the "steel sharpens steel" theory), or are they more likely to emerge from divisions where the eventual champs weren't battered by six brutal divisional slugfests? Let's look at the NFL's post-realignment history.
-2002: Tampa Bay cruises to a 12-4 record, but the NFCS actually boasts two more teams with winning records- The 9-6-1 Falcons and the 9-7 Saints
-2003: New England runs to a 14-2 record, but Miami also posts a 10-6 mark.
-2004: Patriots go 14-2, but New York hits 10-6 and Buffalo goes 9-7.
-2005: Pittsburgh's 11-5 record is matched by Cincinnati.
-2006: The 12-4 Colts are the AFC South's only team with a winning record.
-2007: The Giants go 10-6, sandwiched between 9-7 DC and 13-3 Dallas.
-2008: The 12-4 Steelers are pushed by the 11-5 Ravens.
-2009: Yes, the Falcons get to 9-7, but the 13-3 Saints aren't seriously challenged in the NFC South.
-2010: The 10-6 Packers finish the regular season just behind the 11-5 Bears, but beat them in the NFC Championship game to reach Super Bowl XLV.
-2011: The Giants eke into the playoffs at 9-7, and are the only NFC East team to finish with a winning record.
-2012: The Ravens' 10-6 record is matched by Cincinnati (shades of 2005!)
In 11 seasons since realignment, the Super Bowl Champion has emerged from a divisional race involving two or more playoff-caliber teams EIGHT times. So, in recent NFL history, it does appear that being in an intense divisional battle tends to help your chances of winning the Super Bowl.
Does being in the "NFC Best" hurt Seattle's chances of winning homefield advantage for the entire postseason? Probably. But recent NFL history also shows us that most Super Bowl winners won at least one playoff game on the road. After surviving the NFC West gauntlet, I don't doubt our Hawks could go to Atlanta or Green Bay or New York (or anywhere else) and win in the playoffs. On balance, I think the strength of our division helps the Seahawks more than it hurts them. They're ready for this battle, and prepared to win it.
Here it is: The 2013 Seahawks Schedule! (All times Pacific)
September 8: @ Panthers 10 am September 15: v Niners 5:30 pm (NBC) September 22: v Jaguars 1:25 pm September 29: @ Texans 10 am October 6: @ Colts 10 am October 13: v Titans 1:05 pm October 17: @ Cardinals 5:25 pm (NFLN) October 28: @ Rams 5:40 pm (ESPN) November 3: v Buccaneers 1:05 pm November 10: @ Falcons 10 am November 17: v Vikings 1:25 pm BYE WEEK December 2: v Saints 5:40 pm (ESPN) December 8: @ Niners 1:25 pm December 15: @ Giants 10 am December 22: v Cardinals 1:05 pm December 29: v Rams 1:25 pm
What jumps out to me? It's great that we've got at least four national TV games, particularly for an Northwest expatriate like myself. I like the early-season trip to Indianapolis (See y'all there!), and I LOVE the late-season placement of the bye week. Wrapping up the season with two divisional home games sets us up nicely to take the NFC West, and playing four out of our last six at home won't hurt us, either.
What do I HATE about the schedule? The early-autumn stretch where we play four out of five on the road, including two 10 am games and a road Thursday night game. I don't like being stuck with a 10 am game on the east coast on Kickoff Weekend, either. Out of six possible 10 am kickoffs, we got stuck with five. True or not, that just FEELS like the league office screwing with us, doesn't it?
That being said, I don't think that any scheduling configuration would derail the 2013 Seahawks. If you made me guess, I'd say that we'll finish 13-3, with the losses at Houston, Atlanta, and New York (Yes, we'll sweep SF and lock up the division with a week to spare). What do you guys think?
I'll probably (hopefully) make it out to the Niners game September 15, the Colts game in Indianapolis October 6, and one of the last two home games that bracket Christmas... and the playoff games at Seahawks Stadium too... Doy.
What are your reactions to the Seahawks schedule, y'all?