SEATTLE WA - JANUARY 08: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates after running back Marshawn Lynch #24 scores on a 67-yard run in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8 2011 in Seattle Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
It might seem odd to think about, but I want to test a theory on an alternate reality... a world in which the Seahawks were not the champions of Super Bowl XL.
As we start to embark on another season, it's a time to look forward and wonder what will be, but it's also a time to reflect on what once was. The Seahawks are entering 2012 on the upswing with some exciting new additions and as always we have just one goal in mind: Win it all. Lofty expectations to be sure, but not for us. This is what we do. This is who we are. But it wasn't always this way. There were darker times in Seattle. Which begs me to ponder one question before we enter another season...
What if the Seahawks hadn't beaten the Steelers in Super Bowl XL?
When I was growing up, the team was one of the sad-sack losers of the NFL, along with the Bucs, Saints, Lions, or Browns. I do envy young Seattle children now, growing up with the feeling that Seattle can do no wrong, but at the same time it gave me character to grow up with so little. Nothing could have made me appreciate going to the Super Bowl more after beating the Panthers in the NFC Championship game than to have had so much heartbreak.
This wasn't what we do. This wasn't who we were known to be. But Mike Holmgren had helped build up a team of talented veterans that finally broke through and worked as a cohesive unit, despite continued doubt from analysts around the league that Seattle was for real. Still, the Hawks won eleven regular season games in a row before handling the Redskins and Panthers to advance to the first Super Bowl in their history.
Even then, the Seahawks were the underdogs against the wild card Steelers, a team that potentially came within inches of losing to the Colts in the divisional round. There's no doubt that the history of the franchises played a major part in the public's view of who would win that game, but much like the Patriots defeating the Rams in 2001, perceptions were about to change.
The Early Lead
I can't pretend that even as a Seahawks fans, I didn't have my own doubts. The perception of Seattle as bad wasn't just "national outside of the Northwest." We felt that way too. If anything, we doubt harder because of all the hardships we've been through. But we still believed, or at least we incredibly hoped, even if a little doubt did linger in the back of our minds.
In the NFC Championship game, that doubt disappeared the moment Seneca Wallace caught a touchdown pass. As far as I was concerned, you could have turned the TV off at that point. That was going to be our day.
Maybe the magic of the play in the Super Bowl wasn't quite as intense, but when Darrell Jackson caught a first quarter touchdown pass to give the Seahawks a 7-0 lead in their first ever Super Bowl, I began to believe a little bit more. Could this be our day again? Steelers players called out for offensive pass interference, but the refs would have none of it.
The Seahawks drew first blood.
And if the Seattle defense could hold true, this game could be as good as over. They didn't disappoint early, holding the Steelers without a first down in the first quarter, an interception by Michael Boulware, and a beautiful 37-yard punt return from Peter Warrick that setup the Seahawks second score of the game. I'll never forget that Joe Jurevicius 45-yard touchdown as he barreled down the sideline and the only thing standing between him and a touchdown was a waiting Troy Polamalu. Jurevicius had no choice but to run into him like a runner and catcher meeting at home plate.
By the time it was over, Seattle led 14-0 in the second quarter, and Polamalu was out for the rest of the game with "Butt Hurt."
Now, as Seattle fans, we could start to believe. By the time it was 31-0, we could start to celebrate. I'll never forget what Holmgren had said after the game, in regards to why the Seahawks had let the Steelers score late in the fourth quarter and lost the shutout:
"Bill (Cowher) and I both came into the league around the same time. Both got our first coordinator jobs in 1989. He was AFC and I was NFC, but we knew of each other and after us both spending nearly 20 years in the league, you get to know each other. In all that time, I've never seen him do anything other than scowl or mildly scowl. When I saw the tears of despair, I had to throw him a bone. That's why the game didn't end in a shutout, and instead ended 91-7. I told our guys, let (Jerome) Bettis get one. They were on their own 20, they snapped the ball, our guys stepped aside, and two minutes later he had scored."
That's just the kind of guy that Holmgren was, rest in peace. (I still sometimes wonder whether it was the right decision for the city of Seattle to sacrifice him to the Gods, but we loved him so much that we had to set him free from the shackles of humanity, for which he was too good.) But we all know what happened.
The question is, what if it hadn't happened?
What if instead of being perfect, the refereeing was shoddy? What if instead of going 0-for-41, Ben Roethlisberger was 9-for-21 for 123 yards, 0 TD and 2 INT? What if the final score, as unbelievable as it would have been given the play by Seattle, was in favor of the Steelers?
Would Jerome Bettis have retired, rather than return for another season in which he literally imploded in a game against the Ravens and turned into a mini black hole that consumed himself and half the Pittsburgh offensive line?
Would Matt Hasselbeck have come back for another season, rather than retire and become Mayor of Seattle? If he hadn't become Mayor, who would have been there to save our Sonics? Is it possible that another regime would have actually let Clay Bennett move the team to Oklahoma City rather than take him to court for lying to the public and been sentenced to five years of community service in which he must stand naked in Pike Place Market while tourists and locals throw salmon at his genitals?
Then we might not have had the Seattle Supersonics 2011-2012 NBA Championship.
Would Big Ben still be doing a dime at Folsom if he hadn't raged after the loss?
Would Belltown still be standing if Jerramy Stevens hadn't raged after the win?
Would we have still ritualistically eaten the body of Holmgren to symbolize his eternal glory in the Northwest? I mean, if we hadn't, what would he be doing now? Working for the Browns?! He's better off dead.
I can't help but think that human cloning would still be in legal hell if it wasn't for the push to make 31 more Walter Jones's to help balance out the league.
I can't help but think that the Joe Jurevicius Academy for White Skill Position Players would not exist.
I can't help but think that Seneca Wallace might not have led the league in passing, rushing, and receiving in 2006.
Does anybody want to live in a world where Jeff Reed (Better known to you as "Reedhypnol" on Jersey Shore) is a Super Bowl champion?
Or in a world with Hines Ward, period? Stop smiling at me, Hines! Remember how we wiped that smug look off of his face in Super Bowl XL? That was the best feeling of my life.
This could be a horrible world without that victory but...
We Did Win
What's right in the world is right. Those are all things that happened because the Seahawks came out with a victory in Super Bowl XL in the fashion we've come to expect from the greatest dynasty of the century. Many doubted that Pete Carroll would be able to come in here and continue the legacy, but he's been fantastic even as USC disbanded from football in his absence.
Seattle is going with some changes this year of course, replacing the retired Wallace. They brought in Matt Flynn, and even if he only had eight starts with Green Bay, he was very good in those games. At least it wasn't only two starts. They also brought in Russell Wilson from the draft, and his reconstructive surgery to add four inches to his height has gone off without a hitch according to reports. I'm not worried about the transition, these guys should do fine.
The Seahawks also added Bruce Irvin in the draft in an effort to break their own team sacks record from a year ago. I'm not worried about the defense.
The legacy of Seattle shall go on. The dynasty shall go on. We can wonder forever what the world would be like if they hadn't won their first Super Bowl, some seven years ago, but we don't have to...
Because they did win. They did win. They did win.....