Before the recent successes, brought on by Mike Holmgren and Tim Ruskell, all of us were just suckers and gluttons for punishment. We all stood as helpless bystanders to the ineptitude around us. It's as if we were all the stars of the Coen Brothers classic film The Big Lebowski.
Rick Mirer was seemingly a rug "that really tied the room together" in his rookie season. Then, just as the universe had always done to us fans, someone came in and urinated all over that once hopeful, Seahawks rug.
With that rug now disgraced and shipped to Chicago (thanks again for that Bears fans, schleps), we all stood delighted as a more polished and befitting rug was laid down in our living room. John Friez, the new rug, possessed all you could ask for in a room accessory. And then, in Detroit's Silverdome, all of us were struck on the back of the head, to the point of unconsciousness. And that new hopeful rug removed from our living room. "Nice Marmot, Maaaan".
And that's how our life as Seahawks fans pushed on until 2004. Every time a new hope, or "rug" if you will, was cozily placed in our lives it was either desecrated or removed from our dreams. All we could do is pour another "Caucasian", light a spliff, and keep living. But, as it did for "The Dude", all of the negative circumstances worked out in our favor. All those negatives, odd events, and unlucky follies were all necessary to build the foundation of success we all enjoy now.
Here are seven different scenarios, plays, and/or events that helped lay the foundation of this Seahawks organization recent and future successes. Each seemed catastrophic, unlucky, lucky, or doomed as they transpired. But each was needed to effect future decisions and offer a differing, positive path.
The below are listed in no particular order. In no way are they the only significant events that shaped our current fortunes. They're just the first seven that surged to the forefront of my cell-depleted brain.
The Affair with Jeff George
In October of 1996, ironically on the heel of a road victory against the Dolphins, Dennis Erickson finally, publicly questioned Rick Mirer's future in Seattle.
Even more compelling, was his acknowledged love affair with then suspended Atlanta Falcon's QB, Jeff George. It was in that first week of October, that the notion of swapping Rick Mirer for Jeff George became public knowledge and a possible reality for the franchise and its fans.
The only hurdle in that trade ever becoming reality was, Mr. George himself. Seattle wasn't a location George had on his list of desired NFL cities. Despite weeks of negotiations between George's representatives, the Falcons front office, and the Seahawks front office, George never wavered in his desire not to play for our beloved blue and green.
What effect did this have, you're asking? Aside from a bullet dodged? Simple; Jeff George, with his still unmatched skills alone, would've brought on at least one playoff run with that Erickson team.
There's just no doubt in my mind, that George was talented enough to lift Erickson's perennial 8-8 record, to a 9-7 or even a 10-6.
And what would've happened then? Would one or two playoff runs have extended Erickson's tenure here in Seattle? You betcha' it would have.
Leaving the Hawks now with a coach, not named Holmgren (he'd be in Baltimore), and most likely still yearning for an appearance in the Super Bowl.
Is that Phil Luckett!? Ah, screw this, &^%@ it!
We all remember the play as Seahawks fans. In fact, most NFL fans will remember the play.
That infamous Vinnie Testaverde, last-second, clumsy scramble a foot short of the goal line. The play that forever brought instant-replay back into our lives and gloomy hindsight into Hawks fans nightmares. The play shined a much-needed spotlight on the problematic state of NFL refereeing.
No Mr. Luckett, the football, not the helmet, has to cross the goal line for a touchdown. Of course he already knew that, but was too scared to face Bill Parcells and the New York crowd had he called the play directly.
Going into that game the Seahawks were 6-6, and gaining momentum under then untested and unheard of Jon Kitna. A road win against a Jets team, which ended up one game short of the Super Bowl that year, could've very easily built enough momentum for the Seahawks to win out that year. Or, if the game had been called correctly, at least have vaulted the Seahawks to 9-7, over 8-8. And 9-7 was enough to make the playoffs in the AFC that year.
So again, what would've happened if the play had been called correctly, the Seahawks win that game and make the playoffs? Could the front office have realistically sold the public on firing Dennis Erickson, after leading the team to its first playoff berth in nearly a decade?
I'd bet the answer's "no". Erickson would've remained and Holmgren would again be in Baltimore.
Friez "breaks a leg" in Motown
Only in Seattle, to a Seattle professional sports franchise, could the following ever happen.
With Jeff George securely in Erickson's pipedream rearview the focus was now on the sturdy and productive John Friez. Friez had proven himself to be a serviceable professional QB. One that despite the limited arm-strength seemed on the verge of becoming a successful NFL gunslinger. Especially considering, Friez, was well versed in Erickson's spread offense, having shred numerous collegiate records in the system while at the University of Idaho.
The new era was to begin November 17th, 1996, in Detroit against the Lions. Just the night before, yes that's right the NIGHT BEFORE, John Friez had inked a new salary-cap friendly deal announcing his arrival as a starting NFL QB. Finally ending the carousel that was the Seahawks QB position.
Then Murphy's Law stepped upon the throats of Friez, Erickson, and all us fans with one leg-bone breaking sack. To Friez's credit, the break happened sometime in the first quarter of that game, but Friez played through until halftime. And that was essentially the last we saw of the Idaho Vandal, Friez.
What may have happened if Friez had not broken a bone that game? Was he serviceable enough to put the mediocre Seahawks over the top? Maybe, maybe not.
But when you figure those squads we're stuck at 8-8, seemingly year in and year out, despite the shoddy and fickle quarterbacking I tend to think a solid QB would've made a big difference. Difference enough to obtain 9-7, and make the playoffs.
The Kick Heard, Silently, Around Husky Stadium
It was Sunday, January 6th 2002. All of us regulars at Husky Stadium we're watching the first game, of any meaning, take place on the field-turf. The Hawks were playing the Chief's with more than a reasonable chance at the playoffs.
With much maligned Matt Hasselbeck finally on the sidelines, per the request of the ill-informed straphanger fans, Trent Dilfer was leading a slight resurgence of Holmgren's Seahawks. In fact, he was playing so well under his one-year contract, pressure was already mounting to get him signed long term and make Hasselbeck an after thought.
But, that day the improbable occurred. Despite being heavy underdogs in the contest, the Seahawks sole competition for that final AFC wild-card spot, the New York Jets were in position to defeat Jon Gruden's Oakland Raiders. All of us in the bleachers without headphones were turning in all different directions to inquire with fellow fans with headphones.
With the Hawks victory imminent, and John Hall's game winning attempt for the Jets being over 52 yards, the playoffs were undoubtedly in hand. Having had confirmed the distance with those donning headphones, all of us fans were optimistic for the first time in a couple years. But shortly after that optimism, all of us soon realized that Hall had made the field goal.
It wasn't announced of course, since the game at Husky Stadium was still being played. All of us could tell by the somber and silent demeanor the stadium had quickly sunk into.
It's an amazing phenomenon, attending one sporting event with as much or more interest being focused on another, some 800 miles away. With every beneficial play, an odd-timed euphoria would blend into the crowd. The euphoria spread as fast as the fans with radios could pass the news. The same goes for bad news, the negative news encircled the stadium, systematically, as if it were patrons participating in a silencing "Wave" cheer.
And that suppressing wave is exactly what transpired that Sunday, shortly after the news of John Hall's field goal engulfed the stadium.
What would've happened if the Seahawks had made the Playoffs that year? Would that have been enough to put the Matt Hasselbeck saga permanently on hold?
Or would it have been just enough to secure Dilfer's job, even during times of injuries? Something tells me "yes". And we may have never known, how good Hasselbeck would be. Or at least, he wouldn't have got a shot to prove it for a few more years.
Woodson's Case For "Jacked Up"
All Seahawks fans remember the horrific image as if it were yesterday.
A twitching and unconscious Darrell Jackson lying at the feet of Darren Woodson.
Shortly after the play, it looked like the type of hit players never return from. It was the type of hit that spawns further neurological damages, a susceptibility to future concussions, and leaves that bitter taste of a career cut short in fans minds.
Thankfully, Jackson only missed a few games and further developed into a top ten receiver in the league. And thankfully, that one play was enough of a rallying cry for Matt Hasselbeck to finally assert his swagger onto the Seahawks team.
"We don't let anyone do that to us", was the rumored mantra Hasselbeck spewed in the huddle, after subbing for an injured Trent Dilfer. And it was from that point on, Hasselbeck became the face of the franchise and undisputed leader of the Seahawks.
What would have happened if that hospital-inducing hit by Woodson had never been administered to Jackson? Would Hass have been able to convince his teammates he was the man to take them to the promise land?
I'm Not a Fumbler, I'm Just Sweaty
Maybe the best offensive talent (toss-up with Pete Kendall) Dennis Erickson procured during his tenure, was one third round steal from Nebraska, Ahman Green.
Green possessed a unique combination of WR speed in a RB's body. In his first and only two years as a Seahawk, Green wowed everyone in town except the only person that mattered, Mike Holmgren. His propensity for fumbling drove Holmgren to the edge.
Despite the dynamic skill-set, Holmgren never got entirely comfortable with using Green. Eventually trading him to the Green Bay Packers for a talented corner, Fred Vinson.
The only problem was Vinson already had nagging foot injuries, injuries that kept him from ever donning the Seahawks uniform. He ended up never playing a down for the Seahawks, while Green flourished in Green Bay despite the occasional fumble.
While the trade still goes down as more lopsided than Queen Latifah and Mary-Kate Olsen on a teeter-totter, in the end that bad trade paid huge dividends for the Seahawks.
If Green hadn't been shipped out of town, it's unlikely that Holmgren would've selected one Shaun Alexander the following off-season.
And without Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks would most likely still be searching for that elusive Super Bowl appearance.
Nedney cuts Holmgren's GM tenure short
The day still lives vividly in my mind.
The Seahawks had already squandered a chance to walk into the playoffs as men, by defeating the Jets in the Big Apple.
With that opportunity pathetically botched, all eyes turned to Kansas City, where the then "upstart" Oakland Raiders were close to upsetting the Chiefs, handing the division title to Seattle.
All that was needed was a Chiefs loss to allow the Seahawks to back their way into the playoffs. And that's exactly what Joe Nedney was able to deliver, with 33-yard field goal 3+ minutes into the overtime period. The play sent the playoff-starved fan base of the Hawks into fervor, for a week.
The future seemed bright - for six days or so. Right up to the point Trace Armstrong and Dan Marino deflated the Kingdome, on it's final day, in a wild-card playoff contest.
But, the ramifications of that kick reach farther, in my opinion.
The following year many confused Hawks fans watched in horror, as Holmgren systematically dismantled the first playoff team in a decade. All the fans ever asked for was a team that made the playoffs. But after one year, the GM Mike Holmgren was removing it from us.
Why was a playoff team being dismantled? What was wrong with the pieces in place? Why was a ready-made playoff team traded in for a team that struggled for the next four years? Holmgren the GM seemed to pale in comparison to Holmgren the coach.
Eventually, Holmgren was forced to secede his GM title, giving way to Tim Ruskell. Bringing on Ruskell was the final piece needed to put the Seahawks seemingly over the top.
What's my point with the above and what does Joe Nedney have to do with any of this, you're asking?
In my opinion, Holmgren began drawing criticism as GM the minute that 1999 playoff team was dismantled. Dismantling a playoff team, especially for a franchise that hadn't tasted a postseason in a decade is a bold move. Such a bold move, that you better be right immediately. It put Holmgren the GM on a short leash.
If Nedney had missed that field goal, the Hawks don't make the playoffs, and Holmgren's demolition of that '99 squad may have been more justified. At least justified enough to let him retain his GM title for an additional year or two. Which may have been just long enough to miss out on, Mr. Ruskell.
Ryan Davis frequently writes for Seahawks.NET, whether we like it or not. You can e-mail Ryan here - if you dare.