As we head into free agency for the 2014 season, it has given me time to reflect on the 2013 season and how good the Seattle Seahawks looked in the Super Bowl. A lot has been written about the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and whether they are one of the greatest Super Bowl champions ever. After watching them beat the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl, it is hard to argue that they are not among the greatest. The Broncos had a historic offense and were shut down by one of the best defenses in the Super Bowl era. Since that blowout win, I have been pondering whether the Seahawks were an all-time dominant team and what their prospects were for being one in 2014. While the Super Bowl performance was impressive, I actually would not rank them in the Top 10 among all-time Super Bowl Champions. I think their proper ranking would be somewhere between 11-17.
It would take too much time in this article to break that down team by team, so I wrote a separate article 10 Best Single Season Teams in Super Bowl Era and why each team is on the list. Before you want to accuse me of overvaluing or undervaluing the Seahawks, I encourage you to read the article. It will better illustrate the criteria I use in differentiating between teams and why I do not think the 2013 Seahawks are one of the Top 10 Super Bowl champions in NFL history. My top 10 teams are as follows:
10) 1971 Dallas Cowboys 05) 1972 Miami Dolphins
09) 1994 San Francisco 49ers 04) 1984 San Francisco 49ers
08) 1999 St. Louis Rams 03) 1996 Green Bay Packers
07) 1984 San Francisco 49ers 02) 1985 Chicago Bears
06) 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers 01) 1991 Washington Redskins
While the Seahawks were not an all-time dominant single season team in 2013, they were extremely close. What is even more scary is I view this team as being on the ascent, not the decent. In 2014, this team has the opportunity to become one of the historic teams of the Super Bowl era. Here are five areas I think they need to improve if they want to become a team for the ages.
1) They need more blowout wins – The last game we saw the Seahawks play was a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos. It is easy to think they played that way every week of the season. The Seahawks had an 11.6-point differential, which was the second best in the NFL in 2013. All of my above Super Bowl champions led the league in point differential the year they won the Super Bowl. The only team on my list that had a differential of less than 13.0 points per game was the 1989 San Francisco 49ers. They not only dominated the Super Bowl, but they won their three playoff games by a combined score of 126-26. The Seahawks destroyed the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, but their aggregate playoff score was 89-40 with the Super Bowl being their only double-digit playoff victory. They had three wins by more than 25 points in the regular season. The pales to the 1996 Green Bay Packers, who had the most in NFL history with seven and the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who had six.
Part of that was playing in the toughest division in the NFL, but they also only beat the two-win Houston Texans by three points in overtime in Houston. They also only beat the four-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home by three points in overtime. In order to be an all-time dominant single season team, they need to increase their point differential by at least 1.5 points per game and more realistically 3.0 points per game. That is not going to happen if they are beating teams like Houston and Tampa Bay by only a field goal. The Seahawks need to bring the intensity they brought in the Super Bowl to their games against four-win teams if they want to become an all-time dominant team.
2) They need to score more points – There are two ways to win games by more points and thus improve point differential. Teams can either improve in scoring offense or scoring defense. It just does not seem possible the Seahawks are going to improve much in scoring defense. Their 231 points allowed led the NFL in 2013. The stingiest defense in the Live Ball Era (since 1978) is the 2000 Baltimore Ravens (165 points allowed). The stingiest defense since the 2004 rule changes is the 2006 Baltimore Ravens (201 points allowed). Could the 2014 Seahawks improve on their 231 points allowed? It’s possible, but not likely to be a significant change. They may allow 215 points instead of 231 points, but that is not going to be enough to move their point differential from 11.6 to 13.0 points per game or higher. If they allow only 165 points, they would be arguably the greatest defense in NFL history given the current NFL rules. That seems almost impossible in the offensive friendly state of the league.
Where they are going to be able to improve more easily is the scoring offense. The Seahawks played with a defense that led the league in points allowed (231), yards allowed (4,378) and turnovers forced (39), yet they scored only 417 points. That mark was eighth in the NFL, but hardly a staggering number considering the opportunities their defense was giving them. The 2009 New Orleans Saints also forced 39 turnovers, but were 20th in points allowed and 25th in yards allowed. That team scored 510 points, almost 100 more than the 2013 Seattle Seahawks. Had the 2013 Seattle Seahawks scored 510 points and allowed only 231 points, they would have had a 17.4-scoring differential. The highest point differential for a Super Bowl Champion is 17.8, set by the 1999 St. Louis Rams. I do not even think the Seahawks need to reach 510 points scored to be an all-time dominant single season team. If they could reach the 480 point mark and continue to play dominant defense, that would put them in the 15.5 point differential per game territory, which would make them a slam dunk for Top 10 Single Season Teams if they repeat as Super Bowl Champions.
3) They cannot settle for field goals – A big reason the Seahawks were eighth in scoring last year was they settled for too many field goals. The Seahawks only scored 45 touchdowns last year, which was 11th in the NFL. On the other hand, K Steven Hauschka was 33 for 35 on field goals; those 33 made field goals were tied for fifth in the league. Their 55.23 percent red zone touchdown percentage was just 14th in the NFL. It is difficult to compare numbers from different eras, because of the difference in the rules. For instance, the 1989 San Francisco 49ers led the NFL in scoring offense with 442 points scored or just 25 points more than the Seahawks scored this year. You have to look at how they rank in relation to the leagues and the Seahawks offense comes up woefully short to the all-time dominant teams.
When you look at my Top 10 teams of all time, seven of them led the league in scoring that season. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers would have led the league any other year, but played in the same season as the 1984 Miami Dolphins and finished second. The 1985 Chicago Bears finished second in scoring, 11 points behind the San Diego Chargers. Only the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers finished outside of the Top 2 in scoring and they were fifth. They also had a 15.1 point differential, which was 4.5 points per game better than the 2013 Seattle Seahawks. If the Seahawks are going to improve their scoring offense, they cannot settle for field goals. They need to become an offense that score more touchdowns.
4) They must pass the ball better – Running the ball was not a problem for Seattle in 2013. They ranked fourth in rushing yards with 2,188 yards and 12th in rushing yards per attempt (4.3). Where this offense was deficient was passing the football, ranking 26th with 3,236 yards passing. Most of the all-time great teams were extremely balanced. The 1991 Washington Redskins ranked in the Top 10 in points scored and allowed, rushing yards gained and allowed, passing yards gained and allowed, passing touchdowns scored and allowed, rushing touchdowns scored, interceptions tallied and allowed, yards per attempt gained and allowed. They almost made the Top-10 in rushing touchdowns allowed, finishing 12th with 11 allowed.
The Seahawks were not a balanced in 2013. They ranked 31st in passing attempts (420), 26th in passing yards (3,236), 10th in touchdown passes (27) and 20th in first downs gained (307). The 1985 Chicago Bears are the second ranked team on my list, despite ranking 20th in passing yards gained (3,076), 22nd in touchdown passes (17). However, that era was a little different. The Chicago Bears had the third most sacks in the league (64) and they forced 54 turnovers. The Seahawks had 43 sacks and forced 39 turnovers in the new offensive friendly NFL. So, either the Seahawks are going to have to force a ton more sacks and turnovers or they are going to need to become a better passing team. Improving the defense seems impossible, but QB Russell Wilson becoming a better passer in his third year is very doable, especially with WR Percy Harvin hopefully regaining his health in 2014. If they can pass the ball better, they should be able to improve their scoring offense and point differential, which would move them closer to the all-time dominant teams on my list.
5) They need a receiving back and a tight end – In order to improve their passing offense, they need more versatility. The offense was very good in yards per attempt. Even though they only gained 3,326 yards passing, they also only threw the ball 407 times. Wilson finished the season averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt. That was tied for second among quarterbacks with at least 400 passing attempts. The problem is that they really did not have much of a short to intermediate passing game. RB Marshawn Lynch led the running backs with 36 receptions and TE Zach Miller led the tight ends with 33 receptions. When you look at what other NFL offenses are doing in the passing game, those totals are woefully deficient.
There is nothing wrong with having high yards per attempt average; in fact it is a great indication of offensive efficiency. The 1991 Washington Redskins threw the ball only 446 times, but averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt. The difference is that the 1991 Redskins had two 1,000-yard receivers (Art Monk and Gary Clark). This Seahawks team was led by WR Golden Tate, who had 898 yards receiving. Ideally Harvin will develop into a 1,000-yard receiver next year, but in today’s NFL, the tight end and running backs are valuable targets. Ideally, the 2014 Seahawks will have more production at those positions, while keeping the vertical element of their offense. They would be wise to target some weapons in free agency or the draft to give Wilson more options.
Overall, I think the Seahawks are very close to being one of the most dominant teams in NFL history. I would rank them in similar company to the 1976 Oakland Raiders, 1977 Dallas Cowboys, 1986 New York Giants, 1992 Dallas Cowboys, 1998 Denver Broncos and 2004 New England Patriots. Those are some of the better teams in NFL history and fantastic company. However, the recipe to being an all-time dominant team is clear. It takes 13 or more regular season victories, 13.0 or more point differential and a balanced attack that leads to blowout wins on a consistent basis.
The 2013 Seahawks were on the cusp of being one of those teams last year that seemed to put everything together in the Super Bowl against one of the best offenses in NFL history. If Wilson can progress in his third season, if they can maintain their drive for greatness and their focus on winning a Super Bowl, if they can avoid injuries to superstar players and they can keep their defense together while making some tweaks on offense; the sky is the limit for the 2014 Seattle Seahawks. We could be looking at a team that is ready to insert itself into the all-time single greatest seasons in NFL history. They almost did that in 2013 and I feel like this team has not even scratched the surface.