Apparently, it’s impossible to surprise the perpetually unpredictable Seattle Seahawks.
“On our team, the crazy is expected,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman when asked if anything about the 2014 season surprised him.
“There’s always something crazy that happens every year, some big move you’ve got to acclimate to, whether it’s getting a player or trading a player, whatever it may be, there’s always something.”
At 12-4 with the NFC West title in their pockets, the Seahawks defied many expectations and failed to succumb to the post-Super Bowl blues that historically strike defending champions.
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They got rid of their highest-paid offensive player, Percy Harvin, after five games.
At 3-3, they had as many losses as they had in 19 games the previous season but came back to win nine of the final 10.
And they defended a division title and earned the conference’s top postseason seed despite trailing the division by three games in the second half of the season.
“I’d say I was a little surprised by our slow start, starting off 3-3,” punter Jon Ryan said in the locker room Wednesday. “What wasn’t surprising was finishing up 9-1 in the last 10. I knew the team we had. I’d be there at practice every day when we were 3-3 and I thought we had as good a team if not better than last year.”
Everything fell back into place, Ryan said, after “we had one of those gut-check situations and started trusting each other.”
The abrupt trading of Harvin to the New York Jets, after much of the offseason and preseason had been devoted to shaping the offensive scheme to suit his skills, caught the team offguard.
“Obviously, the whole Percy thing was a big surprise,” said defensive end Cliff Avril. “But that’s the nature of the beast, that’s how the business is. You have no choice as a competitor but to keep moving forward with what you have going on.”
Still, it had to be a disruption.
“It could kill a season,” Sherman said. “But with us, it’s always next man up. (Coach Pete Carroll) preaches that mentality too much for it not to come to fruition. In that case, our receivers stepped up, our offense adjusted and acclimated to life without (Harvin).”
Likewise, when nose tackle Brandon Mebane went out midway through one of his best seasons, “it was a blessing for Jordan Hill to step up and Kevin Williams to play more and have an impact,” Sherman said.
When Harvin was traded and the Hawks appeared on the verge of becoming a post-Super Bowl cliché, the national media swarmed in to start writing the early epitaphs.
Those in the locker room considered the news of their demise vastly premature.
“It shows the maturity of our team,” Avril said. “And how Coach Carroll runs things.”
Ryan also cited Carroll’s handling of “gut-check” time and how valuable it was getting the Seahawks back on track.
In addition to the next-man-up theory, Carroll preaches finishing strong, taking care of the ball, and the importance of everybody on the team buying in to the concept of team unity and playing the game for one another.
Does everything that Carroll harps on pay off?
“Well, yeah, the guys around here are buying what he’s selling,” Ryan said. “He’s proven around here for years that what he’s saying works.”
So, the second-half rally, the No. 1 seed into the postseason again, the valuable contributions all season from players who started out somewhere down on the depth chart … none of those were big surprises?
According to the guys in the Seahawks locker room, the bigger surprise would have been if they hadn’t been able to accomplish these things.