Geography aside, it’s difficult to ignore the parallels between the Seattle Seahawks and Macklemore. Both arrived on the national stage in 2013, seemingly out of nowhere, sported questionable hairstyles and some of their greatest triumphs – like winning conference championships or Grammys – had folks up in arms.
Now, both have to figure out what to do for an encore. Because if there is one thing success does not guarantee, it’s more success. “What have you done for me lately?” has quickly turned into “What will you do for me tomorrow?” so while winning a championship or hitting the number one spot on the charts is nice, the joy can only last so long.
So whether it’s recording the follow-up to The Heist, or figuring out how to get past the 49ers once again, both have their work cut out for them. Luckily, Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and the “Legion of Boom” defense have been striving towards a repeat since early in the year, trying to avoid one-hit wonder status, with the ultimate goal of becoming a dynasty remembered for decades to come.
Good luck. For some reason, getting back to the Super Bowl has been a code that’s damn near impossible to crack for recent reigning NFL champions: Dating back to the 2006 Steelers, none of the last eight Super Bowl champions have won a playoff game the following year. Half of them failed to even make a repeat appearance in the postseason. No team has appeared in back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2003-2004 Patriots, who also happen to be the last repeat champions.
Why can’t teams find their way back to the top, and why will Seattle break that trend? Well, for starters, the last decade has been a fluke.
Over the first 14 Super Bowls, there were four repeat winners: The 1967-8 Packers, 1973-4 Dolphins, 1975-6 Steelers and 1979-80 Steelers. In the eighties, the 49ers won three titles, and the Redskins and Raiders each won two. The Niners won two more in the nineties, while the Cowboys won three and the Broncos won two. And even if the Bills have won as many Super Bowls as Adam Sandler has won Oscars, they did appear in four-straight.
In other words, repeating has long been an NFL staple, and there’s a legitimate argument to be made that the Seahawks can revive the tradition. It’s possible that they’ve been the best team in the NFL in each of the last two years, though rarely does the best team win it all.
Perhaps a better predictor of success would be DVOA, an advanced defensive-efficiency stat created at Football Outsiders.
In 2005, the Colts were the top team in DVOA, and the following season, they’d win Super Bowl XLI. The 2007 Patriots team that went undefeated in the regular season (and fell one David Tyree reception short of a championship) was tops in DVOA that year. The Packers were second in DVOA in 2009, fourth in 2010 and first in 2011, and won Super Bowl XLV. And finally there’s Seattle, the team that has finished first in DVOA in each of the last two seasons.
Seattle’s defense allowed the fewest points and yards in 2013, while forcing the most turnovers. They forced at least two turnovers in 14 of 19 games, held opponents to single-digit point totals seven times, and turned the ball over themselves just five times over their final 10 games, including playoffs. In the postseason they faced the Saints, 49ers and Broncos and held them to 40 points total, which is three fewer than what Seattle scored in the Super Bowl alone.
In a 34-7 Week 13 win over the Saints, they held Drew Brees to 3.87 yards per attempt, the third-lowest total of his career. It was the first time New Orleans was held to seven points or less since 2008. Colin Kaepernick faced the Seahawks three times last year and finished with two touchdowns and six interceptions. And in the Super Bowl, they held Peyton Manning to 5.71 yards per attempt, one touchdown and two interceptions. Up to that point, Manning had been averaging 3.27 touchdowns per game.
On Thursday, Seattle faces Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for the first time since the “Fail Mary” game of 2012. That controversial call overshadowed the fact that Rodgers, perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL over the last five years, was held without a touchdown pass, had just 5.72 yards per attempt and was sacked eight times in the Packers 14-12 loss. A Rodgers-led offense has only been held to 12 points or less twice in the last three years.
And pretty much all of the components from the defense that made it happen are still in Seattle, including the three All-Pro secondary members who are now locked into long-term extensions. While some past champions suffered significant losses due to retirement, free agency, shrinking cap space or injury, Seattle faces almost none of those issues in 2014.
Their biggest loss is leading receiver and punt returner Golden Tate, who signed with Detroit, but his replacement is Percy Harvin, who is basically what you would get if Tate got covered in the Ooze from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. After taking most of 2013 off to recover from hip surgery, Harvin looks healthy, which means that the best team from a year ago could actually be adding one of the best players in the first half of 2012, when Harvin had 1,374 yards from scrimmage in nine games.
In fact, the Seahawks are as healthy as they’ve ever been under Carroll.
Left tackle Russell Okung missed eight games last year, but has remained off the injury report so far. It’s not something any NFL team can realistically count on – to stay completely healthy for an entire season – but Seattle was significantly banged up last year and they still found their way to the Super Bowl for a 43-8 win over “the greatest offense of all-time.”
Can they do it again?
There is no question that the Seahawks are going to be good, and seem like a lock for the playoffs, where anything is possible. But in order to win a championship in any given season, being “good” or even “great” is only one part of a combination of necessities. Just like an artist who hustles for years refining their skills, selling CDs out of a trunk and posting homemade YouTube clips for 301 views, you also have to get lucky.
The follow-up is in fact no different than the original. All you’ve done is reset the game so you can play it all over.