Camps open across the NFL this week. The Seattle Seahawks open the preseason as the consensus favorites to win the Super Bowl, which would make them the first repeat champions since the New England Patriots nearly a decade ago.
Nowadays we have a tendency to want to see a trend in everything. Most trends don’t stick. Mullets had their day, but “business in the front and party in the back” should never be something that describes a haircut. Denim overalls made a valiant attempt. But after wearers realized that you can only pull off that look if you’re under 6 or over 60, it quickly, and mercifully, parted the scene.
We tend to want to see trends in sports as well. Hall of Famer and Super Bowl Champion Joe Montana, on the NFL Network this summer, was asked whether or not the Seattle Seahawks could join the ranks of teams like his 49ers and become a dynasty. Here’s how Montana answered:
“I think they have the capability to. When you look at the way the team is put together, they’re young, they’re aggressive; their coach is very aggressive and upbeat,” Montana said, “Anytime you can make going to work fun, even though you’re playing, as I say, ‘a stupid game for a living,’ it makes going to that facility every day really a joy. When you’re having fun at what you’re doing, you’re always a lot better at it.”
Nobody can really argue with anything Montana says here. But then again, there’s a lot more to becoming a dynasty than simply having a happy work environment. The ’91 Falcons might have had the happiest work environment in the history of sports, yet they never won anything. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan was punching his teammates and seemingly won all the time.
Here are some reasons why Montana might be right about the Seahawks, and why he might be wrong.
Why he might be right? Montana nailed it on one thing: the Seahawks are young. Rosters are nowhere near finalized for this upcoming season, but based on last year’s age rankings the average age of a player on the Seahawks roster was 25.31, young enough to be ranked as the fourth youngest in the league. With one Super Bowl already under their belt, this team could have enough time to gel and grow together to win two more over the next three-to-four years.
Another thing the Seahawks have going for them is the working relationship between General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll. Unlike the petty squabbling that sometimes exists between the head coach and GM over at division rival San Francisco, Schneider and Carroll seem to genuinely get along, to the extent that Carroll felt comfortable enough pranking Schneider on local Seattle radio by telling listeners that Schneider had agreed to let Russell Wilson practice with the University of Wisconsin basketball team. If Jim Harbaugh had done that to Trent Baalke on San Francisco radio, the board-op at the radio station would have had to dump the interview to avoid airing the slew of f-bombs that would have ensued.
More importantly, Schneider is really, really good at his job. Next to Ozzie Newsome he might be the most underrated general manager in football. Not just for having the ability to see the draft’s hidden gems, like Richard Sherman, that seem to elude others, but also for being able to keep players like Michael Bennett off the free agency market, and for releasing and re-signing Sidney Rice to a more team-friendly deal. Teams that win consistently in the salary-cap era need to have GMs that can find hidden talent, and keep proven talent away from other teams. Schneider has proven more than adept at both of those things.
But they say Father Time is undefeated, and they could also say the same for Father Math. The Seahawks hit the lottery by winning a Super Bowl with a third-round quarterback who was still playing under his rookie contract. But eventually, maybe even this year, they’re going to have to pay Russell Wilson. And if the Jay Cutlers and Colin Kaepernicks of the world are getting $54 million and $61 million respectively, guaranteed, with no Super Bowl rings attached to their fingers, then you can safely bet that despite the fact that the Seahawks consider themselves a “defense first” team, Wilson’s agent is going to argue for more than that for his ring-wearing client. Once that happens, it will be difficult for the Seahawks to retain key members of their team under the salary cap, especially if they keep winning, which will artificially drive up the value of every player on the team, not just Wilson.
For example, even though John Schneider was able to keep a lot of players off the market this year, they still lost several key people, such as Brandon Browner, Golden Tate, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Clinton McDonald, and Walter Thurmond, and that was without having to pay huge money to a quarterback. Imagine how many players they’ll lose after Wilson gets his deal?
There’s another point to be made here as well, and that’s about the level of competition within the NFC West. When the Patriots were in the midst of their dynasty in the early 2000s, the AFC East was competitive, but it was nothing like what’s going on in the NFC West right now. For example, there’s a team in the NFC West that has been to three straight conference championships and a Super Bowl and is not called the Seattle Seahawks. That team of course is the San Francisco 49ers, but there was no one in the AFC East that was anywhere nearly as accomplished a rival against the Patriots when they were winning Super Bowls.
In fact, given how ridiculously tough the NFC West is, it wouldn’t be too hard to conceive of a world where the Seahawks could make the playoffs, and not even have home field advantage. Arizona has had serious turmoil at coach and quarterback in recent years, and even they finished 10-6, including a December win at Seattle where they held Russell Wilson to a paltry 108 yards passing. The Rams, the lowest-ranked team in the division in 2013, finished barely under .500, and had one of the best drafts in the league in 2014. Meaning, the gap between worst and first in the West is nowhere near as large as it is in most divisions.
Joe Montana has forgotten more about dynasties than I will ever know, but I think he’s wrong about this. Montana’s era predated the salary cap and modern unrestricted free agency. If I had to pick a team to go on a dynastic run over the next 5 years, it would be the Seahawks. But no team has to dominate. Like mullets and fanny packs, I don’t see the Seattle Seahawks becoming a trend with staying power.
Dylan Gwinn is the host of The Mighty Gwinn Show heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio every Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 EST. Follow him on Twitter @themightygwinn.