The 2012 team overcame low expectations and a so-so start to finish with 11 wins and set the stage for the Super Bowl title of the following season.
From the manner in which they celebrated their punter running out of his own end zone to pick up a first down with two minutes remaining, to the way their receiving corps re-enacted a baseball brawl after scoring a touchdown, the Seahawks seemed to have nothing but fun during last Sunday’s 28-14 victory at Detroit.
Winning, of course, will do that.
Afterward, quarterback Russell Wilson referenced another time when he’d been part of a Seahawks team he felt played with the same combination of carefree attitude and celebratory swagger.
“It really reminds me of 2012, when nobody was really thinking anything and you had young guys who played great and veterans who played great,’’ Wilson said, recalling his rookie season. Seattle went from 7-9 in 2011 to 11-5 and finished a long field goal away from advancing to the conference championship game. “There’s nothing we can’t do.’’
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Wilson made the same comparison during the offseason program.
And as is usually the case with such comparisons, it’s far from perfect.
In 2012, the Seahawks were coming off a fast finish, one sparked by an emerging defense and a running game led by Marshawn Lynch. The biggest question mark appeared to be at the game’s most important position — quarterback.
The 2012 starting lineup contained 18 of the same players as 2011.
In 2018, the man who so definitively answered that question six years ago of who would be the QB to take the Seahawks to the promised land — Wilson — seemed about the only sure thing. The offseason saw head-spinning change to follow a stumbling end to the 2017 season, the first year without a playoff berth since 2011.
Seattle’s starting lineup this season contains just 10 players who were starters a year ago.
It’s Wilson’s status as an elite quarterback that gave coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider the confidence they could rebuild the rest of the team and still stay at a competitive level.
In the NFL, any team with an elite quarterback is never really that far away, and anyone questioning Wilson’s eliteness isn’t paying attention.
In terms of roster comparisons, the 2012 and 2018 Seahawks are hardly mirror images.
But those who were there in 2012 think there is a valid comparison in the emerging personality in the locker room — if not the personalities themselves — and in the way the Seahawks are thriving in the face of modest expectations.
The 7-9 record in 2011 had some questioning the direction under Carroll, and few were expecting much of the Seahawks with the 49ers the unquestioned king of the NFC West — the way the Rams appeared to be heading into this season.
“It’s a similar feel because … when we came in our 2012 year, everybody thought we weren’t going to be that good. Everybody was questioning the draft picks, and we proved them wrong,’’ said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who like Wilson, was a rookie in 2012. “There was kind of a chip on our shoulder that we had. Then, you had guys that were here already that were trying to establish their name, trying to show that they’re capable of leading the organizations, and so that was a chip on their shoulder.’’
That collective desire to prove something, and a willingness to work together to do so, is something that might have gotten lost along the way with the consecutive Super Bowls and all that came with it.
Carroll said this week his hope is that players are never influenced by outside expectations. But he said he knows that won’t always be the case.
“Yeah, most of the expectations then were really coming out of our locker room, and we put it upon ourselves,’’ Carroll said. “That’s definitely the way it is now. Yeah, we have not felt the burden of expectations coming from outside in.’’
And like this year, the 2012 Seahawks had a beginning that featured a few starts and stops in the first half of the season (early losses against what turned out to be bad Arizona, St. Louis and Detroit teams mixed in with wins against Green Bay and New England) before really hitting their stride.
The second-half turnaround was spurred in part by the team taking the reins off Wilson and letting him have the full run of the offense, resulting in the unfathomable 150 points over three weeks in December.
In terms of personnel, the 2018 Seahawks may be what they are with no similar sort of change on the horizon.
But what they can accomplish? That remains to be seen. While wins in four of the last five games have the Seahawks earning praise as a surprise team, the next four games — beginning with Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. kickoff against the Chargers — will truly tell the tale.
Seattle has yet to beat a team that has a winning record but plays four in a row against teams that are all .500 or better in the Chargers (5-2), Rams (8-0), Packers (3-3-1) and Panthers (5-2).
And that’s why Carroll didn’t want to delve far into whether this season really feels at all like 2012. He knows it’s how that team finished that defined it. Not how it started.
“They’ve worked to be really, really good,’’ Carroll said of his current team. “They’ve worked and planned and prepared to be a really good team, so we’ll see what happens. We’ve got a long haul here before we figure that out.”