The Seattle Seahawks have been to the past two Super Bowls, but many of the players enter these NFL playoffs still gaining motivation from perceived disrespect from others.
We’ve been led to believe that these are the 2015 Seahawks, but it kind of feels like 1984.
No, not the date of the team’s first conference championship game, but the George Orwell novel.
Whether it’s Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin or Bruce Irvin — it seems as though there’s aaallllways someone watching.
Nobody can speak a syllable of smack about this team without somebody in uniform taking notice. But it works for them. The Hawks are masters of finding motivation.
Sometimes from out of thin air.
Not every player from Seattle feeds off sound bites and headlines, but they do seem to sniff out more than your average group. And Sherman, whose memory acts like a hoarder, is the poster boy for such a practice.
Last Sunday, after the Seahawks lambasted Arizona, the cornerback rattled off doubts he’d heard from fans, disses he’d heard from opponents and dismissals he’d heard from the media.
“I’m entertained by it,” Sherman said.
But it seems to go deeper than that.
Wednesday, Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner noted that if someone disrespects you publicly, you remember it for the rest of your life — “especially this team.” True, there might be players from 31 different organizations who think their teams are equally excitable, but it appears to be a Seahawks staple.
Maybe it’s because half of this squad is made up of seventh-round picks or later. Or maybe it’s because coach Pete Carroll cultivated a “nobody else wanted you” culture.
Either way, when it comes to finding something to draw from, the Seahawks never seem to have to search.
“A lot of people growing up told me I wasn’t going to be nothin’, or that I was going to end up in jail or dead, but I had other visions and believed different,” said Irvin, a linebacker. “That fits a lot of people around here.”
Not everyone needs to seek out haters to get that extra jolt of inspiration. Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril said that providing for his family creates a bigger incentive than any insult could. Quarterback Russell Wilson listed his faith as his top driver, then spoke of his family and late father before emphasizing the importance of self-motivation. Receiver Jermaine Kearse — who once had a college assistant coach tell him he’d be lucky if he were ever drafted — added that while it’s satisfying to prove the doubters wrong, his ambition is fueled more by “proving the people who supported me right.”
And then there’s Baldwin.
There’s a reason they call the veteran receiver “Angry Doug.”
Several months after Baldwin was labeled “pedestrian” by former Vikings receiver Cris Carter, he posted a photo with Kearse after the two combined for five touchdowns. The caption? “Too small. Too slow. Too pedestrian. Two and three touchdowns.”
And after Deion Sanders said that Baldwin and Kearse were just “aight” (all right) before last year’s NFC Championship Game, Baldwin went off in the postgame interview, saying “My man Deion Sanders: We aight, huh? We aight? Yeah, we aight. We going to the Super Bowl again being aight.”
But it’s possible that Baldwin has subbed out rage as his principal motivator and replaced it with joy. Thursday, he said he had an offseason conversation with his mother, who told him to take the chip off his shoulder and put wings on it instead — because that will help him fly farther and higher.
“I don’t look at it as a chip or a boulder anymore,” Baldwin said. “I’ve got the wings of an angel, as my mom would put it.”
Hey, it’s worked for him this year. Baldwin’s 14 touchdown receptions set a Seahawks season record and placed him in a tie for first in the NFL. But you have to think there’s still some Angry Doug lingering, right?
To be fair, Carroll made a point to say that, as a collective unit, the Seahawks don’t rely on bulletin-board material to get amped up for games. The reasoning is simple: What if there is no bulletin-board material out there?
Logical, but Wagner — never afraid to reference an Adam Sandler film — has found a way around that.
“I’ll just make it up,” he said. “It worked for ‘The Waterboy.’ ”