Seattle Seahawks Football
The Seattle Seahawks were one of two teams to enter the NFL in the expansion year of 1976, along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Seahawks and Bucs were placed in opposite conferences in 1976, but were switched for the 1977 season. This was to make sure that each team played a full compliment of teams in each conference, giving them extra exposure to NFL fans nationally.
Therefore, the Seahawks were an NFC in 1976, then an AFC team from 1977 until the subsequent expansion year of 2001, when the Seattle Seahawks were once again moved to the National Football Conference.
Seahawks: The Early Years
The Seahawks made their share of mistakes in the early years. In the 1977 draft, the team held the 2nd overall pick. They intended on drafting Tony Dorsett, the Heisman Trophy winner who played halfback at Pitt. Instead, Dallas Cowboys GM Tex Schramm offered the Dallas Cowboys’ #1 pick (24th overall) and three 2nd rounder draft picks in exchange for the Seahawks’ 1st. Dorsett and the Cowboys captured a Superbowl title in 1977-1978 and Dorsett went on to a Hall of Fame career.
At the same time, the Seahawks began building a solid, respectable NFL franchise. Besides the Buccaneers plumb years from 1979 until 1982, they Seahawks generally had the more solid expansion team in the first 20 years of their business.
Zorn to Largent
For instance, the Seahawks traded a 1977 draft pick to the Houston Oilers for WR Steve Largent in 1976. Largent became the Seahawks first star player, and in many ways he remains the teams biggest star ever. Largent would set all-time receiving records in his day and would later go on to a career in politics.
Jim Zorn was also added to the Seahawks roster in their rookie year. Zorn became the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1976, starting every game for the Seahawks. Zorn would go on to be a position coach for the Detroit Lions and the Seahawks from 2001 to 2007, and is currently the head coach of the Washington Redskins. By 1978 and 1979, the Seahawks were posting respectable won-loss totals, finishing 9-7 both years.
1980 to 1982
From 1980 until 1982, the Seahawks took major steps backward. Each season was a losing campaign and the Seahawks’ original head coach, Jack Patera, was fired in 1982. These bad seasons did allow the Seahawks to draft high in the first round, where they drafted safety Kenny Easley in 1981 and running back Curt Warner in 1983. Stil, it was clear that after three successive disappointing year, major changes were in the making.
In 1983, the Seahawks hired Chuck Knox to be their head coach. Knox had been a successful coach with the Los Angeles Rams and had turned around the Buffalo Bills during his time with that team in the early eighties. Knox was often known as Ground Chuck, due to his heavy reliance on a ground game. He would rely on rookie Curt Warner heavily. Knox would replace Jim Zorn with Dave Krieg halfway through the 1983 season.
1983 was the first time the Seahawks franchise made the playoffs. The team had a strong finish to pull from 6-6 to a wildcard playoff spot. In the first round of the playoffs, the Seahawks defeated rookie John Elway and his Denver Broncos squad. In the second round of the playoffs, the team upset rookie Dan Marino and the defending AFC champion Miami Dolphins.
In the AFC Championship Game, the Seahawks finally ran up against a veteran quarterback (Jim Plunkett) and suffered a defeat at the hands of their nemesis, the Los Angeles Raiders. Seahawks fans viewed the season a major success, nevertheless.
1984 would see the Seahawks post a better record at 12-4. This was an amazing accomplishment, considering that star RB Curt Warner suffered a season-ending knee injury early on. Dave Krieg was a star of the season, combining with Steve Largent to turn Ground Chuck into the so-called Air Knox. This season ended with a playoff loss to Dan Marino during his 48-touchdown season.
From 1985 through 1987, the Seahawks were consistently chosen in preseason picks for the playoffs. 1985 saw a complete collapse, while their 10-6 team in 1986 missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker. A bad call kept the Seahawks out of the postseason in 1987, while the ’88 squad finished 9-7 and was beaten by the eventual AFC Champ Cincinnati Bengals. Knox would continue until 1991, when he left the Seahawks to return to the Rams.
Years of Chaos
The Seahawks would have a string of poor seasons in the early 1990′s, when they drafted disappointing quarterbacks like Dan McGwire (1991) and Rick Mirer (1993). Sandwiched between these picks was the #1 selection of Cortez Kennedy, a solid defensive tackle for many years, in 1992. Tom Flores started as Seahawks GM in the late Knox years, while he took over as head coach after Knox left. Flores never copied his earlier successes with the hated Raiders.
Dennis Erickson, fresh off his head coaching role of the Miami Hurricanes, took over in 1994. Erickson’s teams were typically average, with their best years 8-8 in both 1997 and 1998.
Paul Allen as Seahawks Owner
The Seahawks began turning around when they were bought by Paul Allen in 1996. Allen was one of the co-founders of Microsoft, and he brought deep pockets to the franchise. The team would begin to invest in high-priced free agents like QB Warren Moon, RB Ricky Watters and LB Chad Brown. The Seahawks missed the playoffs in 1998 when they were the recipient of a bad call against the New York Jets that season.
Mike Holmgren was hired for the 1999 season. Holmgren had won a Superbowl with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Holmgren would be both head coach and GM and was widely expected to take the team to its first Superbowl. This process took longer than many would have expected.
Holmgren had instant success, leading the Seahawks to a 9-7 record and their first playoff game since 1988. They were quickly dispatched by the Miami Dolphins and Dan Marino, whom they had battled in the playoffs some 15 years before. In the next two years, the team would miss the playoffs, though the 2001 season saw the team only barely miss them with a 9-7 record.
During these early Holmgren years, the Seahawks were building the foundations of later successes. The team traded disgruntled wide receiver Joey Galloway to the Dallas Cowboys for two first round draft picks, and used one of the selections to draft Shaun Alexander. The team also traded for Matt Hasselbeck, who was at the time Brett Favre’s backup on the Packers. Holmgren knew of Hasselbeck’s talents from personal experience at Green Bay.
Move to the NFC
After the 2001 season, the NFL added new teams and changed to an eight-division, four-team-per-division alignment. To accomodate these new changes, the Seahawks were moved to the NFC West and made rivals of the St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.
…And We’re Going to Score
The Seahawks would compile only a 7-9 record in 2002, but would finish 10-6 in 2003 and qualify for the playoffs. The Seahawks would travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
The two teams battled into overtime, and included the infamous Matt Hasselbeck quote, "we want the ball and we’re going to score". Hasselbeck won the coin toss, but threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. In 2004, the Seahawks won their division, but lost to the rival St. Louis Rams in a home playoff game.
The Seahawks made their first Superbowl trip in 2005, when Shaun Alexander scored 27 rushing touchdowns and the Seahawks finished with a team high point 13-3 record. The Seahawks defeated the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers in the postseason, while they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Superbowl. Many believed the Steelers were the recipient of several favorable calls by the officials in a tightly-contested game.
The Seahawks made the playoffs in the 2006 and 2007 season, though Shaun Aelxander and Matt Hasselbeck were injured for significant portions of the 2006 season. The Seahawks would defeat the Dallas Cowboys in a 2006 wildcard game when Tony Romo fumbled a field goal snap late in the game. The Seahawks were defeated by the Chicago Bears the next week in a game which was closer than many expected it to be.
The Seahawks won the division in 2007 with a 10-6 record. They defeated the Washington Redskins in a bizarre come-from-behind playoff win. The next week, the roles were reversed, when they Seahawks took two Ryan Grant fumbles for touchdowns and an early 14-0 lead, but eventually were blown out by the Green Bay Packers 42 to 20.