A magical year

Almost 90,000 rabid Raiders fans shaking silver-and-black Mylar pom-poms. The Pointer Sisters, in full-length fur coats, belting out the National Anthem from midfield at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Lyle Alzado and his Raider teammates snorting and snarling in anticipation along the sideline.

The Seahawks’ only appearance in an AFC Championship game was 27 years ago, but the pre-game scene on that Sunday afternoon in January 1984 remains so vivid because it was such a watershed event in franchise history.

At one point, Glenn Drosendahl, then the sports editor at the old Journal-American, leaned over and whispered, “The only thing missing is Al Davis standing on the rim of the Coliseum waving in the flying monkeys. The Seahawks are toast.”

That they were. On the second play of the game, after stopping Cullen Bryant for a 1-yard gain, Alzado ripped the helmet from the head of Ron Essink and proceeded to bludgeon the Seahawks’ left tackle with it. The Seahawks wilted, and the Raiders waltzed, 30-14. The Seahawks had swept their AFC West rivals during the regular season, winning 38-36 at the Kingdome, as they forced eight turnovers, registered eight sacks and got a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Paul Johns and then 34-21 two weeks later in L.A. – in the first start of what would become the Dave Krieg era.

But in the rubber match, the Seahawks ran into da Raiders. The future Hall of Fame quartet of Marcus Allen, Howie Long, Mike Haynes and Ted Hendricks. Pro Bowlers Todd Christiansen, Lester Hayes, Henry Lawrence, Rod Martin, Van McElroy and Greg Pruitt. That Master of Mayhem Alzado. As well as Jim Plunkett and Matt Millen. There also was a tight end named Don Hasselbeck – whose oldest son, Matt, would grow up to become the most prolific passer in Seahawks history and a special teams standout named Derrick Jensen, now a scout for the Seahawks.

Johns, the receiver/returner on the team who is now the Seahawks’ assistant director of community outreach, remembers that day this way: “The Raiders didn’t intimidate us, because we played them all the time. But they just dominated us in that game, because they got the magnitude of the game and used their playoff experience. They upped their intensity.”

But what left an even more indelible impressive than the events of that day was what led to the Seahawks even being there. The Seahawks reaching the title game was an accomplishment for the ages by a band of who-are-these-guys players.

The first step occurred almost a year earlier – Jan. 26, 1983 – when Chuck Knox was hired to coach a team that had won 14 games the previous three seasons. With Knox came his “Ground Chuck” offense, so he orchestrated a move into the third spot in the draft to select Penn State running back Curt Warner – a trade with the Houston Oilers that cost the Seahawks their first-, second- and third-round picks. Knox then brought in a nucleus of veterans to help the returning players “learn how to win” – a group that included center Blair Bush, tight end Charle Young, guard Reggie McKenzie and Bryant.

All Warner did was rush for a conference-leading 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn AFC offensive player of the year honors. There also were the holdovers – future Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, who caught 72 passes for 1,074 yards and 11 touchdowns and strong safety Kenny Easley and defensive end Jacob Green, who led an opportunistic defense with seven interceptions and 16 sacks, respectively.

But the move that helped make the season – not to mention Krieg’s career – came at midseason. With Jim Zorn struggling through a 10-quarter slump, Knox went to Krieg for the second half of a Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Knox stayed with Krieg, who engineered the upset of the Raiders in L.A. the following week and led the Seahawks to a 5-3 second-half record.

“You can’t say that was the key move, but it was another bold move,” said Johns – whose brother, Freeman, had played for Knox when he was coaching the Los Angeles Rams.

“Hiring Chuck was a bold move. Making the trade to get Curt was a bold move. Bringing in all those veterans who had been to war with Chuck was a bold move. But deciding to replace the franchise quarterback at midseason with this undrafted free agent who was from a college that no longer existed because he wanted a spark, that definitely was a bold move.”

After losing three of four during one stretch, however, the Seahawks needed wins over the New York Giants and New England Patriots in their final two regular-season games to even get into the playoffs. A 17-12 win at Giants Stadium was iced when right tackle John Tautolo was penalized for holding Green to nullify a fourth-down touchdown pass with 30 seconds to play.

“Jacob had been complaining the whole game: ‘Ref, he’s holding me. Ref, he’s holding me,’ ” said Johns, who led the Seahawks in receiving during the postseason with 11 catches for 168 yards – compared to eight for 157 for Largent.

“Jacob stayed on the ref, kind of like in a basketball game. And when we really needed it, they called it – finally.” After the game, fullback David Hughes wandered through the locker room repeating, “Win one, we’re in. Win one, we’re in.”

That win came the following week at the Kingdome, a 24-6 thumping of the Patriots that put the Seahawks into the postseason for the first time – a Christmas Eve matchup with the Denver Broncos, also at the Kingdome. Another impressive performance – 31-7 – sent the Seahawks to Miami to face the 12-4 Dolphins. The Killer B’s, as they were known, because their defense featured Doug Betters, Bob Baumhower, Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudzinski, Charles Bowser and the Blackwoods – Glenn and Lyle.

But the Dolphins featured a wealth of talent on offense, as well – rookie QB Dan Marino throwing to Mark Duper and Nat Moore and a line that included Pro Bowlers Dwight Stephenson, Bob Kuechenberg and Ed Newman opening holes for Tony Nathan and Andra Franklin. Oh, and some coach named Don Shula.

Gulp, double gulp and triple gulp.

Trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks rallied for 10 points in the final two minutes to pull out a 27-20 upset. Krieg passed for 16 yards to Largent on a third-and-2 play and then for 40 yards to the Dolphins’ 2 – Largent’s only catches in the game – to setup a scoring run by Warner. Sam Merriman recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and it led to a 37-yard field goal by Norm Johnson.

That remains the only time the Seahawks have won a road game in the postseason, and it set the stage for that wild afternoon in L.A. the following weekend – a loss that actually was a victory, just because the Seahawks actually got to the conference title game in a season where everything that happened was so improbable.

“The whole season, leading up to that AFC Championship game, was just amazing how we came together,” Johns said. “We weren’t expected to do anything, but we really came together under Chuck.

“It was really a magical year.”

Year in Review
Record
9-7 (second in AFC West)
Playoffs
2-1, beat Denver in wild-card game and Miami in divisional game; lost at Los Angeles Raiders in AFC Championship game
Owner
Nordstrom family (majority owners)
Coach
Chuck Knox
Captains
WR Steve Largent(off.), CB Dave Brown(def), RB Eric Lane(ST)
MVP
RB Curt Warmer
Man of the Year
WR Paul Johns
Leading Passer
Dave Krieg(147 for 243 for 2,139 yards, with 18 TDs and 11 interceptions)
Leading Rusher
Warner (1,449 yards)
Leading Receiver
Largent (72 receptions for 1,074 yards)
Leading Tackler(s)
LB Bruce Scholtz (104)
Special Teams Tackles
Don Dufek (18)
Interception Leader(s)
SS Kenny Easley (7)
Sack Leader
DE Jacob Green (16)
Leading Scorer(s)
K Norm Johnson (103 points)
Pro Bowl Selection(s)
Easley, Warner
All-Pro
Easley (first team); Warner (second team)
National Honors
Knox, AFC coach of the year; Warner, AFC offensive player of the year and AFC rookie of the year

1983

1983: A magical year

On Jan. 26, 1983, Chuck Knox was hired to coach a team that had won 14 games the previous three seasons. Knox drafted and brought in new talent to the Seahawks that helped lead the team to their first post-season appearance.

Championship Bound
December 31, 1983

Seahawks drive 66 yards in five plays late in the fourth quarter to capture divisional playoff win over Miami, 27-20, before 71,032 fans at the Orange Bowl.

First Playoff Berth
December 18, 1983

Seahawks clinch first playoff berth with 24-6 win over New England.

Opportunity Knox
January 26, 1983

Chuck Knox named head coach. Knox previously had served as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams (1973-77) and the Buffalo Bills (1978-82). He guided seven-of-his-ten teams to the playoffs, while winning six division championships.

Key Date
January 08, 1983

Los Angeles Raiders defeat the Seahawks, 30-14, in the AFC Championship Game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before 88,734 fans.

Playoff Victory!
December 24, 1983

Dave Krieg throws three touchdown passes and Curt Warner rushes for 99 yards in 31-7 win over Denver in the AFC Wild Card Game before 60,752 fans in Kingdome.

Key Date
January 03, 1983

Mike McCormack named President and General Manager after previously serving as Director of Football Operations since March 11, 1982, and interim head coach since October 13, 1982.

Key Date
September 11, 1983

Seahawks win first game under Chuck Knox, 17-10, over the New York Jets, as the club sets a team record with 57 rushing attempts and Curt Warner gains 128 yards on 24 carries.

Key Date
October 30, 1983

The Seahawks complete a regular-season sweep of the Raiders with a 34-21 victory in Los Angeles. Dave Krieg starts the game, replacing a struggling Jim Zorn, and remains the starter for the next eight seasons. Krieg is 13 of 22 for 156 yards and a touchdown in the game, while Curt Warner runs for 101 yards and a score. Kenny Easley has an interception and a sack, as the Seahawks intercept Marc Wilson four times and sack the Raiders’ QB five times.

Key Date
November 20, 1983

Dave Krieg passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns and Paul Johns catches nine passes for 116 yards, but it’s not enough in a 38-27 loss to the Broncos in Denver. The Seahawks then win three of their last four games to advance to the playoffs for the first time in Chuck Knox’s first season as coach.

Key Date
March 15, 1983

Chuck Allen, who joined the Seahawks staff in June of 1975 as Director of Pro Scouting, named Assistant General Manager

Seahawks Select Curt Warner
April 26, 1983

Seattle selects Penn State running back Curt Warner in the NFL Draft. Warner is the third player taken in the first round. To be able to get Warner, the Seahawks trade their first, second and third-round selections to the Houston Oilers for the Oilers first-round pick.

Key Date
October 16, 1983

Seahawks force eight turnovers and register eight sacks in 38-36 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders.

The whole season, leading up to that AFC Championship game, was just amazing how we came together. We weren’t expected to do anything, but we really came together under Chuck.
Paul Johns
1983 Season Schedule
DateOpponentScoreW:L
9/4 AT Kansas City 13-17 L
9/11 AT New York Jets 17-10 W
9/18 San Diego 34-31 W
9/25 Washington 17-27 L
10/2 AT Cleveland 24-9 W
10/9 AT San Diego 21-28 L
10/16 L.A. Raiders 38-36 W
10/23 Pittsburgh 21-27 L
10/30 AT L.A. Raiders 34-21 W
11/6 Denver 27-19 W
11/13 AT St. Louis 28-33 L
11/20 AT Denver 27-38 L
11/27 Kansas City 51-48 W
12/4 Dallas 10-35 L
12/11 AT New York Giants 17-12 W
12/18 New England 24-6 W
POSTSEASON
12/24 Denver Wildcard Game 31-7 W
12/31 AT Miami Divisional Playoff 27-20 W
1/8 AT L.A. Raiders Conference Champ. 14-30 L
1983 Record
97
Playoffs: 2-1
1983 Offense
PosPlayerStarts
C Blair Bush 16
C Kani Kauahi 0
G Edwin Bailey 0
G Bob Pratt 16
G Reggie McKenzie 14
G Bill Dugan 0
T Ron Essink 16
T Matt Hernandez 0
T Steve August 15
TE Mike Tice 0
TE Charle Young 0
TE Pete Metzelaars 7
WR Steve Largent 14
WR Byron Walker 0
WR Harold Jackson 0
WR Paul Johns 9
WR Chris Castor 0
QB Dave Krieg 8
QB Jim Zorn 8
RB Eric Lane 0
RB Curt Warner (R) 16
RB Cullen Bryant 0
RB David Hughes 6
RB Zachary Dixon 0
RB Dan Doornink 0
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1983 Defense
PosPlayerStarts
DE Manu Tuiasosopo 8
DE Jacob Green 16
DE Jeff Bryant 16
DE Darrell Irvin 0
DE Sam Clancy 0
NT Joe Nash 8
LB Greg Gaines 6
LB Bruce Scholtz 16
LB Michael Jackson 9
LB Joe Norman 0
LB Gary Wimmer 0
LB Jerome Boyd 0
LB Mark Hicks 0
LB Keith Butler 16
LB Sam Merriman 0
LB Shelton Robinson 15
DB Don Dufek 0
DB Kenny Easley 15
DB Kerry Justin 10
DB Dave Brown 16
DB Gregg Johnson 0
DB Keith Simpson 0
DB Paul Moyer 0
DB Eugene Williams 0
DB John Harris 16
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1983 Special Teams
PosPlayerStarts
K Norm Johnson 16
P Jeff West 16
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1983: The Cinderella Seahawks

VIDEO: 1983: The Cinderella Seahawks

Seahawks Legends Interview: Jacob Green

VIDEO: Seahawks Legends Interview: Jacob Green

On this Day in Seahawks History