The Seahawks as preseason favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl?
It not only happened in 1985, it was a logical progression after what the team achieved in its first two seasons under coach Chuck Knox. In 1983 came the unexpected playoff berth and even more improbable run to the AFC Championship game. In 1984, when Curt Warner went down with a season-ending knee injury in the opener, the Seahawks managed to win 12 games in the regular season and then upset the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Raiders in the first round of the playoffs.
So, add Warner to that ’85 team and what do you get?
“It was, ‘Imagine what they’ll do if they have Curt Warner back.’ That’s why we were picked to go to the Super Bowl,” Dave Krieg, the quarterback during that era, said recently.
What the Seahawks did, however, was finish 8-8. And not just any old 8-8, mind you. There was a sinister symmetry to their .500-ness, as they won two games, lost two games, won two games and so on from promising start to disappointing finish. They never lost more than two in a row, nor won more than two in a row.
The question changed from what might happen with Warner’s return to how the heck what did happen occurred. How did basically the same team that won a dozen games the season before – and had its leading rusher back – manage to be so consistently inconsistent?
“In ’83, we were a flash in the sky,” Krieg said. “In ’84, they go, ‘Oh my God, they’re in the sky.’ In ’85, they thought, ‘Wow, they’re really shining bright.’ ”
They were only half right, however. When the Seahawks were good in ’85, they were very, very good. But when they weren’t, well, they got beat.
Included in the eight-up were season-opening wins at Cincinnati and San Diego a 30-point victory over a Raiders team that lost only four games all season and lopsided wins over Kansas City and Cleveland at the Kingdome. Included in the eight-down were five losses by 10 or fewer points to teams that won at least 11 games – the Raiders (12-4), Jets (11-5), Patriots (11-5) and Broncos (11-5), twice. All but the Broncos also advanced to the playoffs.
How could this happen? Warner ran for 1,094 yards, caught 47 passes and scored nine touchdowns. Steve Largent had 79 receptions for 1,287 yards – both club records. Darryl Turner had 13 touchdown catches – also the club record – including four in a wild 49-35 win over the Chargers in Week 2. The defense still had Jacob Green, who collected 13½ sacks free safety John Harris, who intercepted seven passes strong safety Kenny Easley, the returning NFL defensive player of the year who was voted to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl nose tackle Joe Nash, who had a career-high nine sacks and linebackers Fredd Young and Keith Butler, who finished 1-2 on the team by combining for 226 tackles.
“Once you start digging into it, it boils down to you just never know,” said Steve Raible, the former wide receiver who in ’85 was in his fourth season as the analyst for radio broadcasts of the team’s games.
Dig even deeper and the Seahawks allowed more rushing yards (1,837) than they produced (1,644) and had only a slight edge in passing yards (3,820 to 3,787). A team that scored 418 points in 1984 had 349 in ’85. A defense that contributed 38 interceptions in ’84 had 24 in ’85. Kicker Norm Johnson, who was 20 of 24 on field-goal attempts in ’84, finished 14 of 25 in ’85.
It was a lot of little things that added up to a big difference.
Including Krieg’s seesaw season, which mirrored that of his team. Again, when he was good, Krieg was en fuego. In the eight wins, his passer rating was 116.4, because he completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,084 yards, with 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He passed for five TDs against the Chargers and also had four-TD games against the Falcons and Browns.
In the eight losses, Krieg’s passer rating was 40.3, primarily because he threw 18 interceptions and only five TD passes – just one in the final four losses. He also completed 44 percent of his throws, and his average per attempt was 5.4 yards – compared to 8.3 in the eight wins. He threw four picks in a loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City and three each in an overtime loss to the Broncos in Denver and a seven-point setback to the Patriots at the Kingdome.
“It was the most rollercoaster-like season you could have imagined,” said Raible, speaking of the team’s performance, but offering an assessment that also described Krieg’s uneven efforts.
“So why 8-8? That’s exactly the way we played the whole season. There was just nothing exceptional about the season.”
Except that the Seahawks finished 8-8, and especially how they finished 8-8.
Raible looks back at the 33-3 win over the Raiders at the Kingdome and that shootout victory against the Chargers in San Diego and shakes his head.
“The team could rise to those occasions,” he said. “But it just couldn’t get over the hump every week. That two-wins/two-losses thing, by about midseason you could almost predict it.”
Which was not at all what everyone was predicting for the Seahawks before the season.