The 1982 season was different than any of the previous 62 in the NFL, and any of the 29 since.
It was dissimilar because of the 57-day players’ strike that forced the cancellation of eight games, not to mention how that gap altered people’s lives.
Like Jack Patera, the Seahawks’ original coach who was fired three weeks into the strike. Like Mike McCormack, who had joined the club as director of football operations in March and stepped in after the strike to serve as interim coach for the final seven games. Like Steve Largent, the eventual Hall of Fame wide receiver who lost an opportunity to add to his career totals in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Like many fans, who could not forgive the players for taking away their game or at least needed time for the bitter memories to fade before returning to the stands at the Kingdome.
Then there was Edwin Bailey, a second-year guard – but first-class character – on that ’82 team.
“I went home, my wife and I had a little free time and it was getting a little amorous,” Bailey recalled recently, breaking into a hearty belly laugh.
“I turn the TV on and they’re reporting, ‘The strike is over. All the Seahawks are back in, but Edwin Bailey.’ So I had to jump up, get my clothes on and get right out the door.”
Not everyone had as much fun as Bailey during their free time.
Patera was on a fishing trip, and learned of his demise on Oct. 13 because someone left a note under the windshield wiper of his truck.
“Who in the hell would get a hold of me with a truck parked in the woods on the river?” Patera told Mike Sando for the book he did in 2004 with Steve Raible, “Tales from the Seahawks Sidelines.”
“They had to come about 16 miles and up the road another four or five, and at the time I thought, you know, there’s something wrong with my family, or my child, or whatever.” No, it was just his employment status. But Patera didn’t discover that until he called the Lake Quinault Lodge – where the note implored Patera to go.
“Dammit, Jack, those bastards fired you!” the voice on the other end of the phone told Patera.
“What?” was his obvious reaction.
“Yeah, you got a message down here to call (general manager) John Thompson. They fired you and John.”
He was only 50, but Patera never coached again.
“The more I thought about it, the more disappointed I was that we didn’t get a chance to finish what we started,” Patera told Sando.
“You really devote your life to something. I just didn’t want to get into that situation again where it’s a one-way deal. So I thought it was time to get into my life’s work.”
The situation reminded Patera of something former Baltimore Colts GM Don Kellett had told him years before: “Let me tell you about coaching. It’s the hardest way to make an easy living there is.”
McCormack, meanwhile, thought he had coached his final game after he joined the Seahawks. A Hall of Fame tackle for the Cleveland Browns (1955-62), he then had modest success as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (a 16-25-1 record from 1973-75) and Colts (9-23 from 1980-81).
But when ownership asked him to help out, McCormack proved once again that he was the ultimate team player.
“I really didn’t want to return to the sideline,” he said a few years later. “But I’m glad I did.”
So were the Seahawks, as the players returned to win four of the seven games McCormack coached.
They re-opened the season with a 17-10 victory against the Broncos at old Mile High Stadium in Denver as Largent caught a 34-yard TD pass from Jim Zorn with 49 seconds to play. The following week, the Seahawks blanked the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-0 at the Kingdome – the third shutout in franchise history and first at the Kingdome – as they intercepted Cliff Stout three times.
After sandwiching a 20-14 victory over the Chicago Bears between losses to the Raiders in Los Angeles and New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, the Seahawks sent McCormack back to the front office a winner as they downed the Broncos 13-11 in a tacked-on season finale at the Kingdome. Dave Krieg passed 19 yards to Roger Carr for the winning TD with 47 seconds to play.
“We did pretty well,” said Bailey, who started seven games at left guard in ’82. “That was the turnaround, or at least the start of it.”
Bailey was right. The franchise would never be the same again, because Chuck Knox was hired to replace Patera – and McCormack – for the 1983 season.
But the stars of the strike-shortened ’82 season were a familiar bunch. Strong safety Kenny Easley was voted to his first Pro Bowl, and also team MVP, after sharing the lead in interceptions (four) with free safety John Harris and finishing second in tackles (56). Middle linebacker Michael Jackson led the team in tackles (64) for the third consecutive season, while Largent was the leading receiver (34 catches) for the seventh season in a row and Sherman Smith led the team in rushing (202 yards) for the fifth – and final – time.
Their expected contributions, however, were the only things that felt right about that season.
The ’82 strike was rooted in the same issue that prompted the work stoppages in 1987 and 2011: Distribution of revenue. But the ’82 strike was different. In ’87, the owners fielded teams of replacement players for three games, so only one game was lost.
“It was only my second season, so I was just happy to still be a Seahawk,” said Bailey, who would go on to start 120 games in his 11 seasons with the Seahawks.
“They could have taken us up to Canada, and I would have played there. It didn’t matter. I was just happy to be playing football and happy to be here and hoping everything would get rectified.”
But while the strike eventually did get settled, things never were the same for the Seahawks.