Like many Seahawks fans, I went through most of the past two years steadfastly refusing to believe that 2005 was gone forever. I believed what the front office and coaches were telling us, that this team was still really close to being elite, and that only a series of debilitating injuries conspired to keep the Seahawks from fulfilling their enormous potential.
I don't remember exactly when it was that I realized this was all a bunch of garbage, but it was sometime during last season. I distinctly remember looking down from my seats in the upper reaches of Qwest Field and thinking, "Holy crap -- this team just isn't very talented."
I looked at running back and saw Julius Jones -- a guy Dallas didn't want -- and Edgerrin James. (Remember that?) I looked at wide receiver and saw Nate Burleson and an aging T.J. Houshmandzadeh who was really good at yelling at teammates and coaches, but not much else. I looked at the defensive line and saw Lawrence Jackson. I looked at cornerback and saw Kelly Jennings. I looked at safety and saw Deon Grant and Jordan Babineaux.
They all had two things in common.
- They all were brought in by previous GM Tim Ruskell to help keep the team where it was at; and
- They all had no business being in a starting NFL lineup.
It was a jarring realization, the thought that the Seahawks weren't just a little behind the elite teams in the NFL -- they were a loooooooong way from them. I had blindly followed the "In Ruskell We Trust" mantra that was birthed the day he drafted Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill but then was virtually unsupported by anything else he did for the remainder of his tenure.
The talent just wasn't there. And that was depressing as crap.
Fast forward to Sept. 12. It's the season opener for the Hawks, and while my trepidation is still high, it's outweighed by the excitement of a new season. I get as emotional as ever watching the raising of the 12th Man flag, even if it is only Chad Brown. (Chad Brown? Really? For the opener? That's the best we can do? I digress.)
For a quarter and a half, it was business as usual. Matt Hasselbeck started with an interception, and the only things that could stop San Francisco's offense were guys named Mike Singletary and Alex Smith.
Same old Seahawks, and another long year.
But then, all of a sudden, it changed. The defense came up with a big stop to force a field goal. Mike Williams pops a short pass down to the one. Hasselbeck eventually scrambles it in. Babineaux intercepts Smith deep in Niner territory in the next drive, which Hasselbeck put in the end zone on the next play with a beautiful out and up to Deon Butler.
We all know how it ended. It was almost surreal, how the Seahawks just kept pounding the 49ers, who were inept in just about every way that day. This was the team that was supposed to be the class of the division -- perhaps even a sleeper team to make a deep playoff run -- and Hawks didn't just hang with them, they looked like they belonged with them.
Which is precisely why I'm not too down after Sunday's faceplant in Denver.
Were the errors frustrating? Absolutely. For goodness' sake, when you're down at your opponent's 1 yard line on the first drive of the game, you simply cannot false start. Then you can't throw an interception. Or subsequently miss tackles. Or throw two more interceptions along the way. It was a comedy of errors at times.
But the thing that resonated most with me was that the Seahawks lost that game by 17 points not because they are actually 17 points worse than Denver, but because the mistakes they made caused them to be 17 points worse than Denver. I think there's a distinct difference there. One is a talent problem; the other is an execution problem.
Yeah, the Seahawks will lament the missed opportunities from Sunday, but the fact that they are able to lament missed opportunities at all says something about the transformation this team has undergone under Pete Carroll and John Schneider.
They've brought in some guys who can make a difference (Mike Williams, Golden Tate, Earl Thomas, the nameless offensive linemen who are doing a competent job protecting Hasselbeck, etc.) and are getting more out of a number of guys who were already here (Deon Butler, Red Bryant, Collin Cole, etc.). I'm not going to pretend that either San Francisco or Denver are upper-tier NFL teams, but I think they're both probably around league average, and the bottom line is that Seattle was not inferior from a talent perspective.
So, while I wasn't real happy at around 4 p.m. on Sunday, I wasn't as despondent as a 17-point loss probably would have otherwise left me. The problems the Seahawks had were mental, not physical, and are thus correctable. Hasselbeck's interceptions? Correctable. Calling a 3-man front defensive alignment on a goal-to-go play from the 3? Correctable. Poor tackling? Correctable. Aaron Curry whiffing on a quarterback sack? Okay, never mind - we won't get carried away.
But you get the point. And based on what I've seen from this coaching staff already -- which is more than I saw cumulatively out of Jim Mora's staff last year -- I actually have some guarded optimism that the issues will be addressed and -- get this -- cleaned up.
The Seahawks have yet another winnable game on their plate this weekend against the San Diego Chargers, who didn't exactly comport themselves well in their first road trip of the year (at Kansas City). Suddenly, a 2-1 record after three games -- unthinkable to me -- doesn't seem so far away. And while they still have a ways to go to be the elite team they were in 2005, there are actually some pieces there to give us hope for the first time in two years.