Coming into this NFL season the Seattle Seahawks were projected by many to reach the Promised Land of back-to-back Super Bowl Champions based on several factors outside of their resounding defeat of soon-to-be Hall of Fame Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII, or the fact that they returned 34 players from that Super Bowl team that saw Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith named Super Bowl MVP.
To be certain, lofty preseason expectations are par for the course for most championship winning teams who return the overwhelming majority of their players from a trip to the mountain top of sports glory. On top of the normal pressures that come with such expectations are a multitude of unforeseen circumstances that every team must navigate in order to get a chance to play in the biggest sporting event in America. Injuries, trades, external innuendo disguised as “anonymous” sources and media-fueled hometown angst are all dished out amongst the 32 teams in the NFL from the first day of training camp until the very last game of the regular season.
Oftentimes the difference between contenders, also-rans and teams that are an unadulterated catastrophe is the stabilizing element of leadership. For the Seahawks, that leadership is often personified by head coach Pete Carroll and his “laid back” players’ coach style of managing his personnel. However, about halfway through the season, critics began blaming Carroll’s coaching style for many of their stumbles that amounted to a 4-3 record. Managing the 52 different personalities on the Seattle roster were rumored to have exhausted the magic that helped Seattle win their first Super Bowl last year.
First receiver Golden Tate, who turned in a blue collar season for the Seahawks in 2013, was gone for absolutely nothing to the Lions, then there were internal rumblings that WR/KR Percy Harvin was corrupting the locker room with negative comments and had fought fellow receiver Golden Tate last season and nitiated a preseason scuffle with WR Doug Baldwin. As a reult, Harvin was shipped to the New York Jets for little more than a Nathan’s Hot Dog and a thrice-used Metrocard. Then came word that the already cantankerous running back Marshawn Lynch was livid over his best friend’s dismissal from the team, and if matters couldn’t get any worse, the Seahawks all but admitted they made a mistake in trading Harvin just two weeks later.
When a ship at sea begins to take on water, a primary indicator of the dire circumstance is the manner in which rats and other vermin rush up from the lower bowels of the ship to escape the rising water. In the case of the Seattle Seahawks, the rising tide of negativity had the S.S. Legion of Boom taking on water like a raggedy old World War II submarine.
With the Percy Harvin scenario came rumors that he, nor any of the other WRs, got along with quarterback Russell Wilson, and allusions that Wilson didn’t get along with other “brothers” on the team as well because of his vocabulary, demeanor and the perception that he is a “company” guy.
Quoting anonymous sources, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report postulated that there was a team consensus that Wilson wasn’t “Black” enough, a ludicrous display of racial ignorance and plantation political speak that was also levied against Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffith III and Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb before him. Ironic that these rumors popped up right when the Seahawks were playing at their worse and had just lost to the Rams?
When a ship takes on water, the fleet turns to their captain for help, and when called upon, Russell Wilson did not waver.
With his team dropping in the power rankings on a weekly basis, the prognosticators and naysayers were beginning to ramp up the parade of negativity toward a zenith, ready to bury the defending champs. But the Champs didn't break and they circled the wagons as Russell Wilson took the reigns as the catalyst of change and Seattle and their 12th man took up the rallying cry.
“Black Enough? I don’t even know what that means. I’m just an educated, well-spoke male,” said Wilson. Often quoted Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman even alluded to a belief that the entire story was fabricated while jokingly telling Wilson put more chocolate syrup in his drinks to effect his blackness.
Though the team appeared to be laughing it off on the surface, you better believe this excreta was used in their collective furnace of competitiveness. From October 22, the date that the Bleacher Report printed its story on Russell Wilson and the WR Corp, through the playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks have a record of 11-1, which includes two playoffs wins against the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers.
“My mindset has always been if you give me the ball with two minutes left there’s always a chance. So, I always try to believe in myself and believe in our offense and next time that situation comes up we’ll be ready,” said Wilson during a press conference following his team's last loss.
Though he had no idea that he was doing so at the time, Wilson foreshadowed an event that would outshine a dreadful, career worst performance that he would turn in for the majority of the NFC Championship game against the Packers.
Though it is hard to quantify for a myriad of reasons, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that each and every instance of internal and external turmoil that was visited upon the Seattle Seahawks franchise during the season exponentially reduced their chances of getting back to the Super Bowl.
By the very nature of his personality, Russell Wilson is not a scream in your face type of guy. He is a motivator when needed and someone who leads by example rather than with rhetoric.
Wilson would embark on some of the best quarterbacking of his career in a three month timespan, including heroic performances against the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals.
The great Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus." With such diverse and fiery personalities as Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Marshawn Lynch, only a fool would overlook the obvious, that being that Russell Wilson’s leadership intangibles are so profound as to sway this sordid bunch into compliance in the locker room and on the field without even having to raise his voice. He has molded a consensus between his team by his refusal to play the blame game and his positive attitude in during tumultuous times on the field.
After a cavalcade of ineptitude that befell the Seahawks during the first half the NFC Championship Game, Seattle was down 16 points at halftime to a Packers team that could smell and taste a return to the Super Bowl. But after a touchdown on a fake field goal play, an expertly executed onside kick, two fourth quarter touchdowns by Lynch and Wilson and a two-point conversion, the Seahawks found themselves in a position that seemed statistically and realistically impossible just minutes prior to the two-point conversion. The Seahawks could have easily given up at halftime or late in the third quarter, but they didn't and that positive attitude was a direct reflection of their on-the-field leader, Russell Wilson.
Though many historians will remember the overtime touchdown to Jermaine Kearse that sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX versus the New England Patriots, the real change happened way back in October when a war-weary team banded together to make a push toward greatness by rallying around their quarterback in the face of ridicule, false rumors and speculation.
A captain of a ship who refused to let it sink.