Seahawks seasons are so weird. They’re never the same. They’re unique stories that end sweetly, bittersweetly, with deep sighs of accomplishment, disappointment, or whatthefuckment.
They’re also almost never subject, as a whole, to that most human of impulses — the capacity, the urge, the compulsion, driven perhaps by millennia of inexorable natural selection, to identify patterns.
Teaching music often means showing students how to tap into their capacity for pattern recognition. They could never learn the most interesting pieces without that skill (although they might not always know it consciously).
Telling a story in journalism often means crafting a narrative. Reporters are taught that where the conflict resides, the story also lives. Build up to the core of the story, piece the events into a coherent plot, generate something that moves and makes sense as a whole, and your readers will thank you. That’s the process. The best storytellers spend hours looking for patterns this way.
Building tribes is all about collective patterns. Do the people in my tribe, or my desired tribe, act like me, or in a way I can support? They kind of have to, or they’re not going to feel like my tribe.
Believe me! On a level we don’t acknowledge, patterns are aestheticically pleasing and profoundly satisfying. And the Seahawks, patterned after Pete Carroll, a known foe of easy congruity, will have none of it.
2010: They were the team that didn’t deserve a playoff spot. Is the narrative about the division being bad, the Seahawks getting blown out nine times, the 300-transaction roster churn, the end of a Hasselbeck-Tatupu collaboration that won division title after division title, or a fated Beastquake that set Seattle onto a fated path that would eventually culminate in a fated Lombardi for the trophy case? What if it’s all of those?
2011: Two different observers could call it the team that was a quarterback away, or watching the birth of the LOB. And then another fan could barge in to say they spun their wheels like a franchise stuck in loser mode. Hell, maybe they were a team that looked way better than its predecessor, a team in which to place a cautious and fragile hope. Losing Christmas Eve in Seattle to the hated big-brotheresque 49ers probably helped them net Russell Wilson. Is that a backstory or a main plot line? Abusing Eli Manning in New York, beating the supposed Dream Team Eagles in Week 13 — those are things a team on the rise does. It also doesn’t necessarily finish 7-9, again. A lot of people could tell the 2011 story in a lot of ways. Are they all wrong, or all right? Yes.
2012: Who could possibly have predicted, when RW’s Seahawks were a satisfactory but plain 4-4, that they would pull off the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in divisional playoff history — and still lose? Who could have seen that Seattle would finish the season atop the hallowed DVOA standings? Or lead the league in scoring defense? They didn’t look like the squad who would break a 28-year road playoff drought. Left for mediocre halfway through the season, they instead decided to be almost unbeatable, almost unforgettable, almost the greatest. But they didn’t finish the job, because shit happens on the way to a neat little narrative.
And so it’s gone since. For every thing you can find to say about the 2013 team, I’ll cite a game where the opposite came true. They’re the Seahawks who won the Super Bowl 43-8 but collected 135 yards of total offense one week in St. Louis. They’re the Seahawks who lost two December games, including one to the team they’d face in the NFCCG, and yet went all the way. They’re the ultimate ball control team that still turned the ball over twice on seven occasions. They won three games on the final play, and as such, were terrific candidates for 10-6 and a wild-card berth.
Many of us would like to make 2017 a failure of special teams and health. I’m tempted. Blair Walsh, a convenient scapegoat, was truly terrible, and losing Sherman and Chancellor at once, in the same game, in the same stupid stadium, barely halfway through the year, was the worst. Events conspired to make the season less than a success. But if Kirk Cousins doesn’t make the two best throws of his life, on consecutive plays in the CLink, and Michael Bennett doesn’t fall down chasing some random Cardinals quarterback later on, they’re 11-5 and making their sixth straight playoff trip. The margin between meh and good is flimsier than the excuse you gave your high school English teacher for the lame assignment you blew off. (Yes, I saw you. Everyone saw you. Shame.)
Wow, that play still stings.
How does a team playing for a first-round bye in Week 14 end up missing the playoffs? How do they lose by 35 at home right after soundly defeating the eventual Super Bowl champions? Because teams don’t follow a neat little script like the ones left by a composer, a journalist or a sneaky force like evolution.
Which brings us, almost, to the present. 2018 is — brace yourself — a weird year for the Seahawks. The narrative of a single Seattle season is that it changes every couple weeks, because it’s an unwritten journey. They’re not memorizing lines and putting on a show for us; the plot is unwritten. The ball bounces one extra time and hits the ground, the flag doesn’t get thrown, the audible works instead of failing, for some minute reason, the injury bug snares one player instead of another. On such things, entire championship runs are aborted; on such things, a division is won.
It’s chaos out there, and anyone who tries to deny it is watching with one and a half eyes wide shut. The 2018 Seahawks will collapse from 8-5 and 99 percent playoff odds into an 8-8 season that leaves us all unfulfilled. Or they’ll beat the Chiefs and make a run to the NFCCG, the Super Bowl, where they’ll do angel wings in the confetti again. The young safeties now thrust into duty will be Carroll’s greatest coaching achievement, or they’ll suck ass. Even both at once is possible. Chaos.
The narrative is as easy to grasp as the air around you, while it’s happening. It can be so, too, when the year ends. If it’s chaos, why can’t it be told as such? Maybe we’re not meant to know a team, along the journey or looking back. Maybe the only thing we’re meant to do, instead of explain it away, is to hop on the stomach-churning ride that is Seahawks football, brave their bullshit, cheer and cry, and then do it all again next year, too.
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