John McGrath: Super Bowl Seahawks have attitude 2005 predecessors lacked

Staff writerJanuary 31, 2014 

— For three nights this week, the top of the Empire State Building has been illuminated in Seahawks colors: green and blue.

It's part of a social-media promotion pitting Seattle and Denver fans against each other, with the winners represented atop the skyscraper by the colors of their favorite football team.

There's something symbolic about the transformation of America's most iconic office building, however temporary, into a Seahawks tribute. Because of geography and the relative newness of the franchise – the NFL had been operating 57 years when the Seattle began play in 1976 – the Hawks never will be as popular as, say, the Cowboys, Giants, Steelers or Bears. But the team's brand is expanding.

Mandatory media sessions were notable for the Seahawks' relaxed confidence and their divergent collection of marketable personalities, from the quote machine that is Richard Sherman to the surly Marshawn Lynch, who has no fondness for participating in interviews but is often quite funny when he does.

(Lynch on Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, a former Raiders head coach once accused of breaking the jaw of an assistant coach: "Being from Oakland, all I knew about him was he punched people. That's my type of person.")

The Seahawks didn't come to Super Bowl XLVIII to win friends, of course, but their relaxed confidence on the brightest stage in sports has been revealing.

"We were excited to get here and wondering what it was all going to be like," coach Pete Carroll said Friday. "Everything has seemed very smooth for us. The media issues, those were new for us this week, and our players handled it well. Our practices have gone very well.

"The energy is perfect, and the players are really ready to play a football game."

There's an undeniable contrast between Carroll's team and the 2005 NFC champion Seahawks, who traveled to Detroit for Super Bowl XL and found themselves, after a week-long media blitz, not really ready to play a football game.

Perhaps age was a factor. Former coach Mike Holmgren had assembled a veteran group competing in the playoffs for the third time in three years. The window was closing, and though the Hawks would go on to win two more NFC West titles under Holmgren, a climate of urgency enveloped around the team.

Urgency doesn't impede performance, but anxiety can. By game time, the Seahawks were attempting to cope with an acute case of stage fright. After winning 15 of 18 games, including a pair of impressive playoff victories at home, they were held to a season-low 10 points by a wildcard Steelers team they should've beaten.

When the Hawks got back to Seattle, the narrative turned from their sloppy efforts on both sides of the ball to the officiating crew's apparent affection for Pittsburgh.

Intimidation is not too strong a word to describe the calamity awaiting the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. They were intimidated by the yellow flags the officials dropped, and by the gold towels fans waved – the crowd was overwhelmingly supportive of the Steelers – and by trash-talking Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter.

Can you imagine Joey Porter putting a body-slamming tackle on Marshawn Lynch, then taunting him with a pointed finger? I can't, either.

The 2005 Seahawks were stocked with world championship talent. Among Seattle's seven Pro Bowl selections that season were left tackle Walter Jones (likely to be named, in his first year of eligibility, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2014 class) and Shaun Alexander, voted league MVP by the Associated Press.

But they didn't have the collective self-esteem of the 2013 Seahawks. Cocky? Not quite, although the description is somewhere in the neighborhood of accurate.

What these guys have – what distinguishes them from their Super Bowl XL predecessors – is an attitude. Some teams think they're special; the Seahawks take it up a step.

They know they're special.

"We have a lot of different personalities, a lot of different talents," defensive end Red Bruant said Thursday. "And coach Carroll, he's got a winning mentality. Just being around him for four years, I've understood why he was able to create the atmosphere at USC. What he likes to say is, ‘Win forever.’

"He means that, and that's permeating through the whole team. We believe that's why we're in this position that we're in today."

The Empire State Building, by the way, looks swell with a green-and-blue topping affirming the Seattle Seahawks arrival into the big time.

Definition of big time: When a team's uniform colors adorn the skyscraper where King Kong made his last stand.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

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