Two big steps toward big things

The story of the Seahawks’ 1997 season was one of arrivals, and also a couple of returns.

The season proved to be a milestone, despite the team’s 8-8 record – the third time the Seahawks had finished with that record in their first 22 seasons and 11th time they had found themselves in the muddled masses of those at .500, one game under (7-9) or one over (9-7).

It was a far-better-than-average season because of those arrivals.

First, in mid-February, Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Brown was signed in free agency. He would lead the team in tackles in each of his first three seasons. Then, in early March, quarterback Warren Moon was signed. He would deliver a season for the ages, setting club records for completions (313) and passing yards (3,678) and also throwing 25 touchdowns in 14 starts – during a season in which he turned 41. In April, cornerback Shawn Springs and left tackle Walter Jones were selected with the third and sixth picks in the NFL Draft. In June, voters approved funding for what is now Qwest Field, which was needed for Paul Allen to complete his purchase of the team from Ken Behring.

Brown, Springs and Jones were selected to the Seahawks’ 25th Anniversary team in 2000 and voted to the 35th Anniversary team last year. Moon, who remains involved with the team as the analyst for radio broadcasts of its games, was added to the Pro Bowl that season as an injury replacement for Denver’s John Elway and won MVP honors in the all-star game.

The returns? After playing the first 13 seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Houston Oilers and Minnesota Vikings, Moon was back in Seattle, where he had quarterbacked the University of Washington. The team also went back to Eastern Washington University in Cheney for training camp, after summering in Kirkland from 1986-96. EWU had been the Seahawks’ training-camp home from 1976-85.

But it was Allen’s leadership from the top and Jones’ domination from the pivotal left tackle spot that eventually would help carry the Seahawks to the most successful five-season stretch in club history: 2003-07, when they played in the franchise’s only Super Bowl went to the playoffs each season won four consecutive NFC West championships and posted a 51-29 regular-season record.

And each arrival comes with a story that is worth repeating.

Allen really had no interest in owning the Seahawks. His passion was basketball, and the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft already owned the Portland Trail Blazers of the NFL. But with Behring threatening to move the franchise to Southern California in 1996, if Allen had not stepped up to purchase an option to buy the team, no one else would have.

“If I entered the NBA out of passion, I was called to the National Football League out of civic duty,” is the way Allen put it in his memoir, “Idea Man.”

“The Seattle Seahawks had been mired in mediocrity even before Ken Behring bought the franchise in 1988. By the mid-nineties, the team was losing more than $5 million a year. It had an absentee owner and a lackluster coach. The Kingdome, which was shared by the Seattle Mariners, was falling apart.”

Even before signing the final agreement to complete his purchase of the team, Allen had agreed to underwrite the $7 million signing bonus Brown got, as well as those paid that would have to be paid to Springs ($6 million) and Jones ($4.335 million).

The Seahawks maneuvered themselves into position to acquire Springs and Jones with a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck. The Seahawks had two first-round picks because then-vice president of football operations Randy Mueller was able to acquire one from the Chicago Bears in a trade for quarterback Rick Mirer, who had been the team’s first-round pick in 1993.

That trade helped the Seahawks land Springs, as they made a deal with the Atlanta Falcons to move from No. 11 to the No. 3 spot in the first round. But they needed some luck in moving from No. 12 to No. 6, where they took Jones. Mueller had a trade in place with the New York Jets for that sixth spot, or so he thought. When Mueller called the Jets, he was told the pick had been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Before Mueller could completely comprehend the magnitude of his frustration – or take his hand off the receiver – the phone rang. It was the Bucs, offering the Seahawks that No. 6 pick for less (a third-round pick and swap of first-rounders) than they had been offering the Jets.

“There was a big push late for Walter,” said Tag Ribary, an assistant in the scouting department in ’97 and now director of pro personnel. “The decision was we had to get into position to get him.

“Where would this franchise be without Walter? He was just so good for so long.”

Once the season began, the Seahawks finished “even” in a very uneven manner during their third campaign under coach Dennis Erickson. They won five of six early, only to lose four in a row by a combined 22 points. They closed with a one-point win over the Raiders in Oakland and a 38-9 thumping of the San Francisco 49ers at the Kingdome – with homegrown quarterback Jon Kitna overcoming a 21-3 halftime deficit against the Raiders in his first NFL start and Moon passing for four touchdowns against the 49ers in the 192nd start of his NFL career.

When Todd Peterson kicked a 49-yard field goal with 2˝ minutes to play against the Raiders, it marked the fifth time that season the Seahawks had overcome a 10-point deficit – equaling the most in the NFL since 1970.

The unevenness of the season was reflected in some startling stats: The offense ranked first in the league in passing offense and was No. 3 overall, but the Seahawks were outscored 101-44 in the first quarter and scored just two TDs on 16 game-opening possessions.

On the plus side, free safety Darryl Williams and defensive end Michael Sinclair were voted to the Pro Bowl after leading the team in interceptions (eight) and sacks (12) while Joey Galloway caught 72 passes for 1,049 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Two games stood out: Moon’s 409-yard, five-TD passing performance in a wild 45-34 win over the Raiders in Week 9 at the Kingdome and a weird three-point overtime loss to the Saints in New Orleans when special teams gaffes added up to a 23-point swing – a fumbled punt snap to set up a TD, a blocked punt to set up a field goal, a 29-yard punt return to set up a TD, two missed field goals and a 54-yard kickoff return by the Saints.

As backup safety C.J. Richardson said during the four-game skid that was greased by special teams’ foibles that led to 70 points by the opposition, “It’s Friday the 13th every Sunday for us.”

But the really special element for the Seahawks in ’97 was yet to come, because of the arrivals of Allen and Jones.

Year in Review
Record
8-8 (third in AFC West)
Owner
Paul Allen
Coach
Dennis Erickson
Captains
QB John Friesz (off.), LB Winston Moss (def.), S Jay Bellamy (ST)
MVP
FS Darryl Williams
Man of the Year
P Rick Tuten
Largent Award
Moss
Leading Passer
Warren Moon (313 of 528 for 3,678 yards, with 25 TDs and 16 interceptions)
Leading Rusher
Chris Warren (847 yards)
Leading Receiver
Joey Galloway (72 receptions for 1,049 yards and 12 TDs)
Leading Tackler(s)
LB Chad Brown (104)
Special Teams Tackles
S Tim Hauck (22)
Interception Leader(s)
Williams (8)
Sack Leader
DE Michael Sinclair (12)
Leading Scorer(s)
K Todd Peterson (103 points)
Pro Bowl Selection(s)
Sinclair, Williams

1997

1997: Two big steps toward big things

The story of the Seahawks’ 1997 season was one of arrivals, and also a couple of returns.

Washington State Legislature passes Seahawks Stadium Funding Plan
April 25, 1997

Washington State Legislature passes Seahawks Stadium Funding Plan, Referendum 48. The bill sets a statewide vote for June 17.

Key Date
March 06, 1997

Detroit Lions safety Bennie Blades is signed as a free agent reuniting him with his brother, Brian.

QB Rick Mirer Traded for Draft Pick
February 18, 1997

Quarterback Rick Mirer is traded to the Chicago Bears for a first-round draft choice. Seattle now has the 11th and 12th picks overall in the April 19-20 NFL Draft.

Key Date
October 26, 1997

Warren Moon throws a team record-equaling five touchdown passes, including three to Joey Galloway, in a 45-34 win over the Oakland Raiders. His 409 yards is third in team history for a single game and is an NFL high for 1997.

Key Date
November 09, 1997

Moon connects with Galloway on a game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass at San Diego with 2:20 left. The 37-31 win is marred by a season-ending broken ankle suffered by six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy.

First Seahawks Retail Store Opens
November 28, 1997

Seahawks open their first retail store, the Seahawks EndZone Store, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square area, two blocks from the Kingdome.

Key Date
July 15, 1997

Seahawks open training camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, returning after an 11-year absence.

QB Jon Kitna Makes First Career Start
December 14, 1997

Quarterback Jon Kitna makes his first career start and guides Seattle to a 22-21 win at Oakland, overcoming a 21-3 halftime deficit. Kitna throws for 283 yards and one score in becoming the sixth first-time quarterback starter in team history to win his debut. Todd Peterson’s 49-yard field goal with 2:20 left is the winner. Seattle’s win was their fifth of the season after overcoming a 10-point deficit, equaling the most in the NFL since 1970.

Bob Whitsitt Purchases Team
June 30, 1997

Bob Whitsitt, President of Football Northwest, signs paperwork to purchase Seahawks from Ken Behring.

Sign Free Agent Chad Brown
February 14, 1997

Seahawks make first strike in free agency signing Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Chad Brown. Brown’s signing is followed two days later with that of Pittsburgh teammate cornerback Willie Williams.

Warren Moon Pro Bowl MVP
February 01, 1997

Warren Moon named MVP of Pro Bowl while leading AFC to 29-24 win.

Training Camp Returns to Cheney
March 05, 1997

Seahawks announce a return of their training camp to Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. Seattle trained at Eastern from 1976-85, before training year-around at their Kirkland Headquarters.

Key Date
March 28, 1997

Seattle trades their first-round pick obtained from the Bears, to Atlanta for the Falcons first-round pick, the third overall. Seattle also sends second and fourth rounders to Atlanta and the Falcons flip-flop their third round choices

Key Date
October 05, 1997

Seattle embarks on three-game winning streak by beating the Tennessee Oilers, 16-13, in the Kingdome. Steve Broussard scores on 77 and 43 yard runs within three second half carries overcoming a 10-0 deficit. Broussard rushes for 138 yards on just sixcarries.

Shawn Springs and Walter Jones Drafted in First Round
April 19, 1997

After selecting Ohio State cornerback Shawn Springs with the third overall choice, Seattle sends the 12th overall choice and a third-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the sixth overall choice. That pick is used on Florida State University tackle Walter Jones. It is the first time in their history that the Seahawks have utilized two first-round draft choices.

Key Date
June 17, 1997

Washington state voters approve Referendum 48 by a 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent margin (820,354 yes, 783,584 no), including a 56.4 percent margin (275,358 yes, 213,092¬ no) in King County.

Warren Moon Sets Single Season Completion Record
December 21, 1997

Seattle closes out season with a 38-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Warren Moon throws four touchdown passes and sets single season records for completions (313) and yards (3,378). Pro Bowl free safety Darryl Williams co-leads the AFC in interceptions with eight, while Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Sinclair has 12 sacks.

Key Date
August 19, 1997

Football Northwest is approved as the Seahawks owners by the member clubs of the NFL.

Key Date
September 14, 1997

Seahawks hold Indianapolis Colts to a franchise low 118 yards for their first win, 31-3, in Indianapolis. The 28-point margin of victory is the largest for Seattle on the road.

Warren Moon Signs as Free Agent
March 07, 1997

Former University of Washington quarterback Warren Moon signs as a free agent after 13 seasons with the Houston Oilers (1984-93) and Minnesota Vikings (1994-96). Moon ranks fourth in league history in attempts (6,000), completions (3,514), and yards (43,787), and is tied for seventh in touchdowns (254).

Key Date
June 23, 1997

Metropolitan King County Council votes 9-3 to approve a new football stadium for the Seahawks.

Key Date
August 31, 1997

Seattle loses season opener to New York Jets, 41-3, in the Kingdome and quarterback John Friesz for nine weeks with a broken right thumb.

If I entered the NBA out of passion, I was called to the National Football League out of civic duty.
Paul Allen
1997 Season Schedule
DateOpponentScoreW:L
8/31 New York Jets 0-0 T
9/7 Denver 0-0 T
9/14 AT Indianapolis 0-0 T
9/21 San Diego 0-0 T
9/28 AT Kansas City 0-0 T
10/5 Tennessee 0-0 T
10/19 AT St. Louis 0-0 T
10/26 Oakland 0-0 T
11/2 AT Denver 0-0 T
11/9 AT San Diego 0-0 T
11/16 AT New Orleans 0-0 T
11/23 Kansas City 0-0 T
11/30 Atlanta 0-0 T
12/7 AT Baltimore 0-0 T
12/14 AT Oakland 0-0 T
12/21 San Francisco 0-0 T
1997 Record
0016
1997 Offense
PosPlayerStarts
C Greg Bloedorn 0
C Kevin Mawae 16
G Pete Kendall 16
G Frank Beede 0
G Derrick Graham 9
T Howard Ballard 10
T James Atkins 0
T Grant Williams 8
T Walter Jones (R) 12
TE Deems May 0
TE Itula Mili 0
TE Carlester Crumpler 12
TE Christian Fauria 0
WR James McKnight 0
WR Joey Galloway 15
WR Tyree Davis 0
WR Robert Wilson 0
WR Brian Blades 0
WR Ronnie Harris 0
WR Daryl Hobbs 0
WR Mike Pritchard 15
QB Jon Kitna (R) 1
QB Warren Moon 14
QB John Friesz 1
FB Mack Strong 9
RB Steve Broussard 0
RB Reggie Brown 0
RB Chris Warren 13
RB Lamar Smith 0
RB Oscar Gray 0
+ View All-Time Roster
1997 Defense
PosPlayerStarts
DE Martin Harrison 0
DE Matt LaBounty 0
DE Michael Sinclair 16
DE Phillip Daniels 11
DT Henry McMillian 0
DT Sam Adams 15
DT Riddick Parker 0
DT Cortez Kennedy 8
DT Dan Saleaumua 9
LB Jason Kyle 0
LB Darryl Hardy 0
LB Mike Barber 0
LB James Logan 0
LB Eric Unverzagt 0
LB Joe Cain 0
MLB Dean Wells 16
OLB Winston Moss 14
OLB Chad Brown 15
CB Willie Williams 16
CB Shawn Springs (R) 10
CB Reggie Rusk 0
DB Tim Hauck 0
DB C.J. Richardson 0
DB Dexter Seigler 0
DB Jeremy Lincoln 0
DB Eric Stokes 0
DB Fred Thomas 0
FS Darryl Williams 16
SS Jay Bellamy 7
SS Bennie Blades 9
+ View All-Time Roster
1997 Special Teams
PosPlayerStarts
K Todd Peterson 16
P Kyle Richardson 0
P Rohn Stark 4
P Rick Tuten 10
+ View All-Time Roster
1997: Blue Thunder

VIDEO: 1997: Blue Thunder

Seahawks Legends Interview: Walter Jones

VIDEO: Seahawks Legends Interview: Walter Jones

On this Day in Seahawks History