As the NFL world convulsed on Black Monday, as Robert Griffin III limped around FedEx Field with a sore knee that doesn’t figure to heal by Sunday, the Seahawks sit in the dark and damp in Renton like a wise cat who knows what it’s like to catch a bird in flight.
Seven coaches and five general managers were fired Monday — more may have been tied to railroad tracks after this is written — in a gruesome sign of the ruthlessly impatient nature of the NFL. Meanwhile, the Seahawks sit quietly, 11 wins and a 10-year quarterback in hand.
To (start) the offense on the 10-yard line, to go all the way to win a football game — high
odds,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll Monday, referring to the final five minutes at the Clink Sunday that decided the the 20-13 win over St. Louis. “The thing that was exciting is we expected to pull it off at end.”
Please re-read that last sentence again. Such a statement could not have been made in Carroll’s first two seasons in Seattle, and in the first half of this season. Now, the Seahawks know each other, the coaches and the playbook so well that they expect, and often get, success when it is most required.
If you don’t think that’s rare and important, take a look at the carnage around the NFL. Some franchises are crushed — Arizona, Detroit, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Cleveland, Jacksonville, the New York Jets. Great franchises stumbled — Pittsburgh, Chicago, the New York Giants. More talented teams still look for leadership.
And the Seahawks and Washington Redskins, opponents Sunday in the wild-card round, have it nailed. So do the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. Those are not the only ones — I see you, Aaron Rodgers; Golden Tate says to say “Happy New Year!” — but they are newly emblematic of the shortest cut to NFL success:
The right leader at the right time, regardless of age, height or other traditional metrics.
The Redskins nearly sold the Washington Monument to move up in the April draft to get Griffin. The Colts in 2011 were willing to Suck for Luck — a 3-13 season. And Denver boss John Elway did the bromance thing with Manning, ignoring the risk inherent in Manning’s much-repaired, 36-year-old body, as well as the $96 million deal over five years required to hire it.
The Seahawks? They expended a third-round draft choice, stood firm in the harshness of mockery, and are reaping the same reward as those who spent huge treasure.
Wilson may not win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he is The Steal of the Playoffs.
Ask Rams defensive end William Hayes.
“Russell really showed me some things today for him being a rookie,” he said after the game Sunday. “He’s a good quarterback. It’s hard to prep for a guy like that who’s so mobile. There’s a new breed of quarterback coming in. They’ve got some true talent.”
So much so that other teams’ failure to see what the Seahawks saw in Wilson, and act on it, may be at least a part of the high casualty rate Monday. Mike Freeman of cbssports.com speculated that Wilson’s success was part of the impatient impetus. As in baseball with Angels phenom Mike Trout, many teams had chances, sometimes more than one, to take a talent who in hindsight now seems like overlooking a locomotive in a mail box. In the great tradition of team sports, heads must roll.
The quarterback position is so much more important than any position in any other sport that getting all-star resolution with a third-round pick is just short of the preposterousness of finding Tom Brady with a sixth-round pick.
The upshot is that Seahawks fans and NFL are merely on the outer edge of understanding the significance of Wilson’s hire by Seattle.
Carroll, as always, is more concerned with the immediate. Saying Monday “was a terrible day for coaches” around the league, there were 12 who were happy, none more than him.
“All in all, it ends the season on a high note for us,” he said. “We finished well and had a terrific second half. We go to the next step with the game in Washington with a pretty healthy roster.”
And a robust future. Not exclusively, but primarily, because they had the guts to hire a guy everyone else missed.