February 03, 2014
Realistically, the core of the Seattle Seahawks has been more than three years in the making, with the first major seeds of this championship roster starting when the team dealt for Marshawn Lynch in October of 2010.
But the fruition, a Super Bowl title in February 2014, has envious NFL team owners, fans and even media sitting up in their chairs now and taking notice of the changed narrative.
Defense, we are reminded in clicheic fashion, can still win championships. After a generation where offenses won championships. But that's exactly the point.
Super Bowl XLVIII will never go down as a memorable game, but it could be a historically significant one, or a sign post — albeit a highly symbolic one in nature. Get ready to buckle up for an offseason of NFL writers talking about how this one game changed the way some teams are thinking and approaching their rosters.
Sadly, it's partly rooted in truth. The problem is that if teams have not seen this storm coming for some time, they have shockingly not paid close enough attention. But some are that blinded; now might be the first time they are accepting the Seattle model as legitimate.
The elements of a Seahawks tidal wave have been in place for a while, and if the San Francisco 49ers had beaten them two weeks ago, which was entirely in the realm of possibilities, you'd have to think they were more than capable of unleashing the same caliber of fury on the Broncos Sunday night. Either way, it's impossible to overlook what that Seahawks team did against one of the two or three best quarterbacks ever.
A flurry of pass rushers. Big, athletic, long cornerbacks. Nasty toughness in the trenches. Bruising running backs. Throw-on-the-move quarterbacks. Team speed everywhere. These things will be all the rage this offseason. Call it the Seattle Effect, if you'd like.
So it should not be a surprise when a handful of billionaire owners go to their GMs this week, roll a tape of Cliff Avril mashing Manning and Malcolm Smith running an interception back for a stunning pick-6 and say: "I want that." The most likely candidates: Dan Snyder, naturally, but also Jerry Jones, Woody Johnson, Jimmy Haslam, Mark Davis and Stephen Ross. In Jones' case, he'll just try to go get it himself.
Hardly a finger snap, of course. Seahawks GM John Schneider patiently built this roster from the ground up. He mined late draft picks, undrafted guys, castoffs and undervalued free agents, willing to take one-year risks on greatness. He struck gold with a third-round quarterback. Schneider trusted his scouts, listened to head coach Pete Carroll about the kinds of players he wanted and needed and was willing to go off the grid.
And now, the rest of the NFL will follow suit. Three years too late, we should add.
Innovators are always ahead of the curve, willing to buck trends, stick to a foundational plan and fight through the inevitable setbacks along the way to see the finished product through. But this offseason imitators will go for the quick facsimile, the cosmetic makeover, to mimic what the Seahawks, 49ers, Carolina Panthers and a handful of others already have been doing.
That's why free-agent pass rushers such as Greg Hardy and other Seahawks-style players will be paid handsomely. That's why safeties such as Jarius Byrd and T.J. Ward will cash in with teams seeking their own Earl Thomas Chancellor thing. Why the price on Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie just went up, DRC retirement talk be damned.
And it will impact the draft, too, from the speed-rushing types such as Dee Ford, to the slew of Gumby-like cornerbacks in this class and the athletic quarterbacks. Yes, we are referring to Johnny Manziel, who will benefit — rightfully or not — from Russell Wilson's performance. There is no "You must be this tall to ride" sign at the door anymore.
The reality is that most teams will try this blueprint and fail doing so. It's not easy to find these players just waiting to be drafted and signed. But that won't stop teams from trying.
And if you want to sum up the offseason to come, there is is. Call it what you want, but if you're just now recognizing it, where have you been the past 18 months at least?
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