Seven years ago was the last time that Seattle got to see what a great team looks like. The Super Bowl XL team that rocked Qwest Field that year was a classically efficient West Coast offense team led by NFL MVP Shaun Alexander and his 28 touchdowns and a defense that was fine tuned to fundamental perfection. The 2005 team had a nearly perfect resume as they went 13-3, a perfect 10-0 at home, won the NFC West, and won the NFC Championship before losing* in the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But they weren’t quite as fun as this year’s edition of the Hawks. The Seattle Seahawks are 9-5 heading into an absolutely riveting litmus test against the seemingly dominant San Francisco 49ers on primetime television. Although they are not quite comparable to their 2005 counterparts with a division crown seemingly out of reach and have a much less paved road to the Super Bowl in front of them, this team has assumed an identity that is thoroughly more exciting to witness than any Seahawks team I have ever seen.
Nothing about this team is perfect or as seemingly unflappable as the Super Bowl team, led by Hall of Fame coach Mike Holmgren, an all-time great left side of the offensive line with Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson, and Alexander’s season for the ages. That team was a football purist’s dream. But what exactly does a football purist look like? My caricature of such a man is a John Gruden type, sitting in front of a dark theater with a roll of tape being fed into a dusty projector, playing and rewinding relentlessly the delicate intricacies of the pulling guard setting the edge for a seven yard run on first down to set up a methodically executed post route on second and short, all the while wishing that Lynn Swann still played, if only for the grace that he brought to the football field. Football purist guy loved the 2005 Seahawks, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I love this year’s version better, for the same reason that I was listening to Good Charlotte instead of Coldplay in middle school.
Everything about the 2012 Hawks is a proverbial middle finger to conventionality. The team has a laundry list of oddities that I will try to abbreviate. 1) The signal caller is not only a rookie, but cursed with being an average sized person and is playing out of his mind as a third round pick in a year where the number one and two overall selections elicit meteoric attention, 2) The team’s uniforms make them look more equipped to have success in Halo 4 than in the NFL, 3) The team’s running back has the speaking ability and sweet tooth of a nine year old, 4) The team owns the play that embodies the endlessly entertaining “Replacement Ref” era, 5) Our defensive backs have somehow adopted the name “Legion of Boom” and have also not gotten made fun of for it and 5A) half of that unit has been accused of illegal drug use and 5B) half of that half very eloquently staggered appealing their four game suspension in order to maximize the talent on the field at any one time and 5C) that same half of the half of the “Legion of Boom” has both You Mad Bro?’d Tom Brady and called out Calvin Johnson and finally, 6) The team is coached by what amounts to a 61 year old, khaki-wearing, Cali bro who still plays like there are BCS implications for his team. The sum of these parts is not the great team we saw in 2005, but an infinitely more awesome one.
There is nothing perfect at work with the 2012 Seahawks. But there is a perfect collection of slightly imperfect parts that makes for a must-see product on Sundays. After the season inevitably ends, whether it be with a meltdown in the regular season or a glorious ride into the sunset with a Vince Lombardi trophy, I would pay to watch this team just hang out until the 2013 season starts. They own a certain swagger that seems to be off-putting to everyone they play. The quirkiness and prestige of the Seahawks fan base is rewarded with a team that embraces it all at once. The Russell Wilson jersey might as well be this year’s “Tickle Me Elmo” of Christmas gifts, and the Christmas Eve-Eve game against the Niners has the makings of a gift within itself.
The game has everything. First and foremost it has two teams who are playing fantastic football right now. But it is also a rematch of a 13-6 loss in San Francisco on a Thursday night in October, where it seems that the Russell Wilson that played that night and the current edition are about as similar as Hugh Hefner and Pope Benedict XVI. It was chosen to be the Sunday Night game on NBC, so we get to hear Chris Collinsworth sound like he is four glasses of malt scotch in once the game starts as he weaves his color commentary through Al Michaels’ Ray Romano impersonation. It features two coaches who rank in the top 5% of susceptibility for being seen dropping F-bombs on the sidelines before the camera slinks away to literally any other shot in the stadium, two coaches who have turned a onetime QB controversy into a complete non-issue, and two coaches who have this moment together.
The playoff implications for the game were undoubtedly soured last week when the Patriots decided that they wanted to give the 49ers a 28 point head start and then try and win the game, almost did, and then eventually lost and ruined the opportunity for this Sunday Night’s game to be for the lead in the NFC West. But the electricity around the game is nowhere near lost, as the Hawks would still love to prove that they are the class of the division and eviscerate San Francisco as well as they did Arizona and Buffalo in the last two weeks, and the 49ers would love to continue their F-You tour of nationally televised games this year. The pieces are all there for what should be an epic game featuring the most awesome team in the National Football League.
(For those of you playing at home, the code in paragraph four went 1) Russell Wilson, 2) These, 3) Marshawn Lynch, 4) This, 5) Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, & Richard Sherman, 5A) Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, 5B) Richard Sherman, 5C) Richard Sherman, 6) Pete Carroll.)