With the M's and Sonics butting up against superiority, the Seahawks drifted into a very long purgatory…they became the unwanted and ignored while others swooped in and grabbed the brass rings. After their spectacular 1995 season, the Mariners were taken to the heart of nearly every Seattleite, paving the way for a new age of Pacific Northwest baseball and the wonder that is Safeco Field. The Seahawks had to go it alone, relatively speaking. Paul Allen bought the team in 1997 and spent millions of dollars successfully lobbying the city for a new stadium for his Seahawks. Allen upped the ante by hiring Mike Holmgren in 1999, giving the team instant credibility, but possibly giving this one man too much control (or, at the very least, possibly one too many job titles). And so, while the M's poleaxed the rest of baseball in 2001 with their 116-win season (and learned in the process that all that gets you is a historical footnote if you can't come through in the postseason), the Seahawks plodded their way through yet more mediocrity. Through Holmgren's first four years, a 31-33 record spoke very little to a bright future.
A break in the clouds came on New Year's Eve of 2002, when it was announced that Holmgren would set aside the GM position he'd held for four years and focus on coaching. When Bob Ferguson was brought in to help Holmgren finish what he had started, it set the tone for every member of the organization - winning is indeed the only thing.
But enough about "da bidnuss"…it's
on to what every sports fan craves. Results. It can be said, without reservation, that whatever
it took to get the Seahawks here, they've made the moves necessary to put
them on the edge of consistent excellence.
Probably the most important factor in this equation was the 2003 draft, now universally recognized by pundits as a major coup for the team. If it wasn't the best draft of 2003 (and it probably was), it certainly bore the most first-year fruit – rookies Marcus Trufant, Ken Hamlin and Rashad Moore all started at least six games for the Hawks, as did sixth-round trade addition Norman Hand. Trufant and Hamlin began what will likely be a multi-year definition of the Seahawk secondary, while Moore provided desperately-needed force at DT after Hand's season-ending injury.
Even better, the front office didn't lie down and nap their way through the offseason after the team's brief playoff run (you listening, Mariners?)…after passing on the brilliant but injury-prone and VERY pricey Jevon Kearse, the team snapped up Rams DE Grant Wistrom and Eagles CB Bobby Taylor. Both players come in providing instant upgrades at their positions, as well as the potential solutions to some very embarrassing issues the Seahawks still suffered through in '03 – Wistrom will team with Chike Okeafor to provide actual consistent pass rush presence (not to mention leaving a large hole in the defense of our cap-strapped division rival), and Taylor's 6'3" frame will hopefully dissuade opposing QBs from continuing the "Alley-Oop" festival that last season's secondary was completely unable to stop, especially late in the 2003 season.
And now, with another draft less than two weeks away, the Seahawks can look forward with more than unrealistic hope for the first time in many years. The offense is ready to fire on all cylinders again. The defense has been overhauled, although some weaknesses up the middle still must be addressed. The fans are ready. And the city of Seattle, weary of its status as Eternal Bridesmaid, craves a team worthy of its love, respect and spending money. The Seahawks, unlike their SoDo and Seattle Center brethren, have done a great deal to put themselves in a position to eradicate a 25-year citywide championship void they helped create.
What have the Seahawks learned and applied that Seattle's other pro sports teams can't seem to figure out? Perhaps that winning is more important than the satisfaction of a few front-office egos. Maybe the fact that a step above mediocrity is nothing to brag about. Or could it be that in the end, a true competitive spirit will override (and eventually replace) organizational malaise, no matter how ingrained it may be? We can only hope that the M's and Sonics can learn from these ideals. Until they do, the only positions they'll hold will be as respective blips in the Seattle Seahawks' rear-view mirror.