That the Seattle Seahawks will defend the Lombardi Trophy in five days is not exactly a secret.
A year ago, a domestic television audience of 111.5 million — most viewers in American TV history — saw the Hawks turn the Super Bowl into an emphatic statement. All they’ve done since then is win 12 regular-season games and two more in the playoffs, including an NFC Championship requiring the kind of fourth-quarter comeback that inspires movie scripts.
So it struck me as odd Monday when I opened up USA Today and learned that Super Bowl 49 will define the legacy of the New England Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick.
Two of three USA Today sports columnists Monday offered opinions regarding the Patriots — specifically, their curious inability to obey the rules. A third columnist wrote about what the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman thinks of ... the Patriots, and their curious inability to obey the rules.
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I get it. When New England quarterback Tom Brady was found to have gripped improperly deflated footballs during the first half of the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18, it was more than just a story. It became the stuff of a potential scandal that threatens our faith in truth, justice and the American way.
But there’s another team here this week in the Phoenix area, and it’s a team that deserves attention beyond its apparent status as a big-game side dish.
The Seattle Seahawks are 60 game-clock minutes away from establishing themselves as worthy topics in any conversation about the most imposing NFL champions of the last half-century. Put another way, they are 60 game-clock minutes away from making pro football history.
Despite the no-doubt nature of the Hawks’ 43-8 victory over Denver last year, the accomplishment was historic only for the pair of official but obscure Super Bowl records they set: Quickest Score From Start Of Game (12 seconds), and Most Playing Time In The Lead (59 minutes, 48 seconds).
A misfired shotgun snap that sailed into the end zone for a safety foreshadowed the ambush, and the Seahawks never were tested en route to winning their first Super Bowl.
But other teams have won one Super Bowl: The 1999 St. Louis Rams, the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2009 New Orleans Saints.
Whenever I see ESPN analyst Jon Gruden on television — and I see him, it seems, eight days a week — I don’t think of him as the coach of the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs. Why would anybody outside the Florida Gulf Coast think of the 2002 Bucs?
The teams that have won back-to-back Super Bowls, on the other hand, bring to mind iconic images.
The Run to Daylight power sweeps of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, the original Super Bowl dynasty. Miami’s insufferably perfect Dolphins. The Steel Curtain defense synonymous with four Pittsburgh Steelers championships between 1974 and 1979.
A decade later, Bill Walsh’s and George Seifert’s 1988-89 San Francisco 49ers showed how an accurately timed Joe Montana-to-Jerry Rice pass on a medium route could combine the low risk associated with a running play with the high payoff of a long bomb.
Following the Niners was the 1992-93 Dallas Cowboys and their Hall of Fame triplets of offensive playmakers: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. (They masked the fact the team was built around superior athletes on defense).
Then came the 1997-98 Denver Broncos — nearing retirement, the formerly multidimensional John Elway never was happier than when he gave the ball to running back Terrell Davis — and, of course, the 2003-04 Patriots, before they acquired the alternate nickname of Cheetahs.
Should the Seahawks return to Seattle next week with another Lombardi Trophy, discussions of their achievement won’t dwell on if the Hawks belong among Super Bowl Era dynasties. Successive titles assure them a chapter in the history book.
“It depends who’s writing the history,” Hawks defensive end Michael Bennett said Monday. “In my history book, I’m going to say we’re No. 1. Of course, whoever writes the history, they get to make the rules.
“I think we’d be No. 1, going back-to-back and having the guys that we have and the ability to keep winning here because everybody is so young.”
History beckons Sunday, when the 2014 Seahawks will attempt to occupy the pantheon of Super Bowl dynasties. Imagine “The Legion of Boom” bursting into the same sentence as “The Steel Curtain.”
It’s a story that could draw interest from coast-to-coast, once America stops fixating on the New England Patriots.