Feel free, Seahawks fans, to pine for the gilded football days days of your youth. In 2020.
As you may have noticed during the pandemic, time has lost shape and form.
If you can see through the mists to the past fall, you may recollect that the Seahawks started the season 5-0. It was the wildest time, the offense making #LetRussCook into a national phenomenon, while the defense staggered about as if blindfolded in a room void of sound and doors.
Various theories were offeredabout how these things happened. But almost none of them included a vital aspect: The schedule.
Granted, it’s hard to know about schedule strength when all teams are in mid-brawl. But since the season concluded, it’s possible to see more clearly. Since the NFL produced its 2021 schedule Wednesday, it seems a good time to tell the truth about a year ago:
Seattle’s early schedule was rich in sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.
None of the first five opponents ended up making the playoffs.
That’s like starting play on the 667-yard 16th hole at Firestone on the green in two.
- Atlanta: W, 38-25. Finish: 4-12
- New England: W, 35-30. Finish: 7-9
- Dallas: W, 38-31. Finish: 6-10
- Miami: W, 31-23. Finish: 10-6
- Minnesota: W, 27-26. Finish: 7-9
In hindsight, the road win at Miami was a seasonal apex, even if the Dolphins didn’t make the postseason. But the larger fact was that the front end of the schedule helped generate something of a false positive. So did the grand good fortune of playing all the NFC East teams, one of the worst groupings since Spinal Tap played Celebrity Jeopardy!
The foregoing helps set-up the single-word summary of the 2021 Seattle schedule: Payback.
The schedulers seemed to have understood the Seahawks needed some gristle after all that whipped cream.
Coaches love to say the schedule doesn’t matter that much, and players always offer the crutch bromide of any given Sunday. These remarks are piffle. Every year the NFL tries to legislate parity, and every year, random currents and tides churn a sport contested only 16 — or now, 17 — times a season.
As former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox said, “It’s not always who you play, it’s when you play ’em.”
Despite all the good works in the Seahawks’ 12-4 record, including 3-3 in the NFC West, they drew their worst matchup in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams, and were thrashed.
This season, the bad stuff comes early — four of the first six games are on the road against what appear in May to be stout outfits.
The season opener is at Indianapolis Sept. 12, then Sept. 26 at Minnesota, Oct. 3 at San Francisco and Oct. 17 at Pittsburgh. Toss in two home games against 2020 playoff teams, the Titans and the Rams, and the season’s first third is a barbed-wire toothbrush.
Particularly odious is the draw of the Steelers game, which the Seahawks were assigned as the 17th foe in the new season-lengthening plan adopted in March after collective bargaining. (All NFC teams will be on the road for the extra game in 2021; in 2022, the AFC goes on the road.)
Yes, QB Ben Roethlisberger, the only relic remaining in the NFL from the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl appearance, is doddering and may need Gorilla Glue to stay together for four quarters. But the Steelers did make the playoffs, and remember, the Seahawks’ most recent loss was to a team led by Jared Goff, who completed nine passes and was deemed bad enough to be exiled to Detroit.
So the Seahawks are hosed by the schedule-maker. They were due.
Without question, the highlight is another game with the Packers, yhis one in Green Bay Nov. 14. These guys always seem to play compelling games, in large part because Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, among QBs who have played more than four seasons, have the only ratings in NFL history above 100.
They also have generated more off-season controversy than any QBs who weren’t traded or didn’t hire every female masseuse in Texas.
That’s why I’m calling this matchup the Joe Walsh Bowl.
It’s named for the Eagles’ rocker whose hit song, “Life’s Been Good to Me,” contained a memorable lyric that captured the tormented lives of these two, despite each having been a Super Bowl champion, consistently successful in nearly every endeavor on the field and in life, while amassing fortunes that compare to small European principalities:
“I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.”
They are 4-4 against each other, including playoffs, and have never won on the other’s home field. They may never come this way again.