By Chris Cluff
The book on the Seahawks entering this season — at least as written by this observer — was that they were a minimum nine-win team with the potential, depending on the play of the quarterback, to win 12 games.
That opinion was premised on the way Pete Carroll and John Schneider, with help from Gus Bradley and Tom Cable, had put together a tough, top-five defense and effective power running game in 2011. The Hawks won seven games in 2011, but they could have won nine or 10 if they had had a quarterback.
This year, the Hawks found their quarterback in rookie Russell Wilson, and he played well enough for them to win 11 games — the third-best win total in franchise history.
So, the Hawks are right where we thought they would be. They could have been even better, which makes you wonder just how good they will be next season and beyond. No matter what happens Sunday in Washington or the rest of the month, the Hawks’ Super Bowl window has just opened.
As quickly as Schneider and Carroll have transformed a five-win team into a Super Bowl contender, Carroll thinks it could have happened even faster.
“This year is frustrating. We could have been so good this year. We were so close,” Carroll said, lamenting the close losses that might have given his team as many as 13 wins and a first-round bye. “It was a little bit of a timing factor. Maybe I could have tweaked it a little bit quicker than I did (at quarterback).”
Carroll intentionally held Wilson back early on, leaning on the defense and running game while making sure the rookie was not overwhelmed.
“It really came back to trust,” Carroll told Sports Illustrated. “He didn’t have any problem with it; he was ready to go. But it was us developing trust in him. It’s like wanting to take care of your kid. You don’t want to give him too much too soon. You want to let him grow. We did that, then finally we said, ‘Let’s go.’ Now we can call anything in the book.”
Wilson’s growth into a top quarterback has been rather stunning, and he no longer seems a rookie — especially after taking the Hawks to an 8-0 record at home and seven wins in the final eight games of the season. His comeback in Chicago was a seminal moment for the Seahawks.
“I think the way that we have responded in the second half of the season, that’s exactly how we would like to finish, regardless of what happened in the first half,” Carroll told reporters after the beating the Rams last Sunday. “Get all those wins, stack it up and feel good. Be rolling at this part of the season and the playoffs. That’s a real good feeling. We feel fine. Our guys are strong, they’re ready to go. We’re not going to go crazy, we’re going to take care of business and see if we can throw a good football game at (Washington).”
No matter what happens Sunday, the Hawks are just getting started.
They have as good a chance to win the Super Bowl as any team still playing. And they almost certainly will build on this season and be a contender for the rest of the decade.
“I’m really proud,” Carroll said Sunday. ” I’m proud of the organization, I’m proud of the fans, I’m proud to be part of the movement that we made in the three years that we’ve been here. 11-5 is a good season; that’s a big season when you’re coaching in the NFL and playing in the NFL. John has done so many things to position us to get this done. To do it with him, I’m proud. It’s really something. We’ll see how far we go.”
However it works out, the Seahawks figure to be a hard out for any team this postseason. And this is just the beginning.
“The thing that all of us know — the players, administration, everybody knows — we’re going to be good for a while,” Carroll said. “This is a young, aggressive, growing team, and we’re just going to keep getting better hopefully. … We have a lot of hope for the future.”
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Seahawks news, see CBS Sports Seattle.
Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.