The Seahawks’ second season under coach Tom Flores featured a rare “triple” by Eugene Robinson, an 80-catch effort by Brian Blades, the second of four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing performances by Chris Warren, another Pro Bowl berth for Cortez Kennedy and a productive rookie outing by Rick Mirer.
Oh, and three times as many victories as the team posted in Flores’ first season. It was 1993, and the Seahawks finished 6-10. Not a quantum leap, perhaps, but definitely a giant step in a better direction after they won only two games in 1992.
“This time last year, I was frustrated and just drained,” Flores said at the time. “This year, I’m drained, but not frustrated.” The darkest-night/almost-sunny-day comparisons between Flores’ first season and his second didn’t stop at the record. The Seahawks scored twice as many points – 280, compared to a league-low 140 in ’92. They forced more turnovers – plus-6, compared to minus-9 in ’92. They ran the ball better – a conference-leading 125.9 yards per game, compared to 99.8 in ’92.
“We actually felt like we had a chance to win when we stepped on the field that season,” Robinson said recently. “I can’t say that about the ’92 season.”
Robinson was a big reason for the improved confidence – and record. In ’93, the Pro Bowl free safety became the only player in franchise history to be selected team MVP, chosen Man of the Year and voted the Steve Largent Award in the same season. It wasn’t all his over-the-top personality and seemingly constant smile.
Robinson led the team in tackles (111) and interceptions (nine, to share the NFL lead), not to mention passes defensed (15), forced fumbles (three) and intensity. Not surprisingly, Robinson’s even-better-than-’92 season earned him a second consecutive Pro Bowl berth, and he missed making first-team All-Pro by a single vote.
Despite his efforts, a Seahawks defense that had been the only unit in the NFL to rank among the Top 10 from 1990-92 slid to 23rd as it allowed the second-most passing yards in club’s first 18 seasons, but also the second-fewest TD passes (16).
That made about as much sense as anything else that happened in ’93. The Seahawks started 0-2, with a six-point loss to the Chargers in San Diego and a four-pointer to the Los Angeles Raiders at the Kingdome. Then came a three-game winning streak, capped by a 31-14 win over the Chargers in a Week 5 rematch at the Kingdome. But the team won only three more times in the final 11 games, each at the Kingdome – by one over the New England Patriots, by 17 over the Cleveland Browns and by 10 over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the first win over the Patriots, Warren carried a club-record 36 times for 174 yards. In the win over the Browns, Robinson had 11 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. In the win over the Patriots, Mirer threw a TD pass to Blades for the game-winner with 25 seconds left in the game. In the win over the Chargers, Mirer passes for 282 yards and one TD and ran for another.
Positive steps for a team that won two games the previous season.
“We’re still a growing and rebuilding team,” Flores said after a season-ending 34-24 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City.
Those two joined-at-the-transition traits were personified by Mirer, who had been the second overall pick in the ’93 NFL Draft Blades, whose 80 receptions where one more than Steve Largent had in 1985 (and one fewer than Blades would catch in 1994) Warren, who rushed for 1,072 yards and seven touchdowns and Kennedy, who had the second-most sacks (6˝) of any interior lineman in the AFC and led the team in tackles for losses (13˝) even though he was forced fed a season-long diet of double-team blocks after his NFL defensive player of the year efforts in ’92.
“There’s no question, teams have had a special plan for Cortez every week,” Seahawks pro personnel director Randy Mueller said at the time. “What they’re doing to Cortez doesn’t happen with everybody. I feel for Cortez and I’m sure he’s frustrated by it, but that’s the price of being great.”
Mirer, meanwhile, would play three more seasons with the Seahawks and another eight in the NFL with six other teams, but he never passed for more yards (2,833) than he did as a rookie and his rookie-season TD total (12) was one shy of his career-high from 1995.
In fact, Mirer had more completions (274) and yards than any rookie QB in league history to that point. In a six-degrees-of-separation situation, Mirer finished second in the NFL offensive rookie of the year balloting to former Notre Dame teammate Jerome Bettis – who would later help lead the Steelers over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
The best description of what Mirer meant to the Seahawks as a rookie might have come from Drew Bledsoe, the former Washington State QB who was the top pick in the ’93 NFL Draft by the Patriots. Mirer was forced to leave the Week 3 game in New England with blurred vision after defensive end Mike Pitts raked his hand across the QB’s right eye.
“You could see a night-and-day difference when Rick was playing quarterback and when he wasn’t,” Bledsoe said after the game. “Their offense was extremely effective when he was in there and it struggled when he was out of there.”
The ’93 season had other odd-twist stories, as well.
Michael Bates, an Olympic sprinter who had been selected in the sixth round of the ’92 NFL draft but didn’t sign with the Seahawks until ’93, set a then-club record with 22 coverage tackles on special teams. He also downed Rick Tuten punts at the 1-, 2- and 4-yard lines, forced two fumbles and led the club with a 20.1-yard average on kickoff returns.
Rod Stephens, a middle linebacker who had accepted a job as a baggage handler at the Atlanta airport before re-signing with the Seahawks as an injury replacement in December of 1990, won the starting job in training camp and finished third on the team with 105 tackles – despite missing three games.
Michael Sinclair, a sixth-round draft choice in 1991, would play in only nine games and start just one before breaking his right thumb. But he had nine sacks for led the club – the first of four times he would do that.
In addition to Kennedy, Blades, Robinson and Sinclair, the ’93 club included three other players who also would end up being voted to the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team: Defensive tackle Joe Nash, who returned an interception 13 yards for a TD in the opener against the Chargers and linebacker Rufus Porter, who played in only seven games because of injuries and Tuten, who set a then-club record with a 44.5-yard average on 90 punts.
After his second Seahawks team tripled the win total of his first Seahawks team, Flores offered, “I’m proud of this bunch.”