Forget the Super Bowl. If the Seahawks don’t win the Nobel Prize, they’ll be a disappointment.
While they’re at it, they should collect a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize and whatever honor you bestow on a team for making Jim Harbaugh look flustered.
And if that’s not enough for the Seahawks to live up to their hype, they can always find a military loophole that makes them eligible for a Purple Heart.
Crazy? Yeah. But the Seahawks now reside in a state of excessive expectations, and ridiculousness reigns. If you’re not mapping out a route to home-field advantage, then you’re monitoring late January/early February airfares to the New York/New Jersey area, site of Super Bowl XLVIII. Or you’re calling ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski very bad names for ranking Russell Wilson the No. 12 quarterback in the NFL after only one season. That No. 12 must have been either a nod to the 12th Man or a mistake. Surely, Jaworski meant to say Wilson was No. 1 or 2 in the league.
You can’t praise the Seahawks within reason anymore. If it’s not over the top, there’s a faction that acts as if you’re insulting the team. Less than two weeks before training camp opens, the hype has gone from a fun novelty to a source of worry.
It will be fascinating to chronicle this unprecedented season in Seattle sports history. Never has a local team been this ballyhooed while still on the rise. It could be a game-changer if the Seahawks thrive under such pressure, a new standard for sports in the city. It could also be a disaster that leaves you covering your eyes for months.
Yes, I’ve contributed to the hyperbole by declaring that general manager John Schneider is amassing the kind of talent that could put the Seahawks in position to make a run at multiple championships. Say what you want about the excessive expectations, but the potential is real. The Seahawks aren’t just a trendy preseason Super Bowl pick because it sounds good. They have perhaps the most gifted roster in the NFL (certainly top 3 or 4), and most of the talent is young.
But a word of caution, even as I stir the enthusiasm: The youth on this football team, the very thing that makes you dream of a prolonged run, should give you pause when putting everything into the 2013 season.
What if this isn’t the year?
What if this is just another good year on the way to the year?
There’s a notion that the Seahawks must advance to the NFC Championship Game, at the very least, for this to be a successful season. Those are lofty but well-reasoned expectations for a team that was 30 seconds from advancing that far last season. But sports teams don’t always make that kind of incremental progress, especially in the parity-driven NFL.
Coming off an 11-5 season, considering the Seahawks’ big offseason additions (wide receiver Percy Harvin, defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett), you expect a team capable of finishing 13-3 or 14-2. Some have joked about an undefeated season. (At least I think it was a joke.)
But I could see the Seahawks being a much better team overall but still finishing 11-5 again or maybe even 10-6. They are now a marquee opponent for every team they face. If their road schedule proves to be as difficult as it looks, the Seahawks could continue their uneven play away from CenturyLink Field.
How far have the Seahawks come? A 10-6 regular season would be considered a major letdown. But this franchise has won at least 10 games in the regular season only six times. The Seahawks have reached the 13-win mark just once, in 2005, their only Super Bowl season. These Seahawks are establishing a greater benchmark for success, but they might require more time to accomplish everything they desire.
The Seahawks could have a fantastic regular season and stumble in the playoffs. They could suffer too many injuries. They could lose some key close games, or Pete Carroll could make some critical coaching mistakes, or the players could fail to mesh quickly. Or, as is typical in the NFL, they could get off to an incredible start, peak early and lose to a team that gets hot at playoff time.
It’s thrilling to anticipate following a team with this unlimited potential during a season in which it could all come together. But you also must respect how difficult this unprecedented mission will be. Seldom does the anointed team follow a linear path to triumph. There will be hardships, and hype turns poisonous during those times. We have yet to learn how the Seahawks will stand up to the scrutiny and the inevitable contempt of being held in such high regard.
Opportunities are precious in pro sports, and the Seahawks have a great one. But this shouldn’t be their lone chance. As good as they are, they have players with plenty of proving left. Greatness isn’t acquired during your breakout year. It is made clear through a repetition of excellence.
The Seahawks have only begun to dominate. Remember that when the season gets tough. And even though you dream otherwise, it always gets tough.
Super Bowl odds
The latest odds to win the 2014 Super Bowl, according to the Vegas Insider website.
New England 5-1
San Francisco 6-1
Green Bay 12-1