Field of schemes

The 1996 season had its memorable moments for the Seahawks. Defensive end Michael McCrary led the AFC with 13˝ sacks.

Safety Jay Bellamy set a franchise record with 34 coverage tackles on special teams.

For only the second time in a 15-season span, three players produced more than 100 tackles – linebackers Dean Wells (107), Winston Moss (106) and strong safety Robert Blackmon (102).

Defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and defensive end Michael Sinclair were voted to the Pro Bowl – Kennedy for the sixth consecutive season Sinclair for the first of what would be three seasons in a row.

Wide receiver Joey Galloway averaged 17.3 yard on 57 receptions. While the reception total was then the lowest to lead the team in a 16-game season, his per-catch average was the highest since 1979 (18.7 by Steve Largent) and remains the third-highest in franchise history (19.4 by Largent in 1977).

As a team, the Seahawks had their only losing record (7-9) in Dennis Erickson’s four seasons as coach (they were 8-8 in the other three).

But it all pales when compared to the appalling events of that offseason. Because 1996 is the year then-owner Ken Behring tried to move the franchise to Southern California.

Behring’s slip-out-of-town maneuver wasn’t a dead-of-night affair, like when the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984. No, the Seahawks’ move – or at least the equipment from the weight room – took place on a Sunday morning. It was Feb. 4, 1996 two days after Behring announced his intention to relocate – with the first stop the Rams’ old training facility in Anaheim, where the players would eventually begin their offseason program.

“To all of a sudden see that happen, to see the love and the emotion and everything that was tied up in this franchise – because the fans did make this franchise what it was in those days – was not right,” said Gary Wright, then vice president of administration and communications.

Wright, who had been with the club since its inaugural season in 1976, was among those outside the back gate at the team’s old facility in Kirkland that Sunday morning.

“It was the worst day you could possibly imagine in this franchise’s history,” he said.

Because the Kirkland facility was closed and remained closed, Erickson and the player personnel staff were left to try and do business that was anything but usual from a hotel room in Bellevue.

These were the “Dark Days” for the franchise, as the headline in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer d above a Feb. 2, 2006, story about the 10th anniversary of the attempted move. As veteran fullback Mack Strong put it at the time, when the Seahawks were in Detroit preparing to play in the franchise’s first Super Bowl, “It was a very weird time.”

Indeed. It all had a happy ending, of course, as Paul Allen agreed that April to purchase an option to buy the team – which the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft did in June, 1997, after voters approved funding for a new stadium.

“My hometown had asked for help, and I wanted to respond, but I wasn’t about to go it alone,” Allen, who also owns the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA, wrote in “Idea Man,” his recently published memoir.

“Football is much more than a civic chore for me now. I’ve gotten hooked on the weeklong buildup to Sunday, to the point where I can’t tell you which I enjoy more, the Seahawks or the Blazers.”

But not even Allen’s intervention was enough to completely erase the bitter memories of those trying times – for the coaches, the players, the fans and even Behring’s son, David, who served as club president.

“It was a mess,” recalled Erickson, who now is coaching at Arizona State. “There’s just no other way to put it.”

With the coaches operating out of makeshift offices while at the Rams facility in Anaheim and an Eastside hotel while in Seattle, signing free agents became an experiment in futility.

“We were trying to bring guys in, not knowing if we were even going to be playing in Seattle – or where we might be playing,” Erickson said. “It was difficult, to say the least.”

Strong, who was with the team from 1993-2007, provided the player perspective, offering: “Everybody was apprehensive. There was just a big question mark hanging over us.”

Make that several question marks. “Everybody was wrestling with: Do we get our hearts ready to play down here? Back in Seattle? Do we move our families down here? Do we want to move our families down here?” Strong said. “It was just overwhelming at times.”

The support Allen and his allies were able to generate for the new venue that became Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field was not there for Behring, who had purchased the franchise in 1988.

“My father felt there was never going to be any chance of a new stadium, or substantially remodeled stadium,” David Behring told the P-I in 2006. “He had a very poor response from the community and from the elected officials. So that was one of the main driving points of that whole deal.”

One of the oddest twists to this whole deal involved David Behring and the team’s best player – Kennedy, who balked at going to Anaheim because he had signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Kennedy’s action was viewed as beyond defiant by Behring, who fumed that the team leader was not displaying the kind of leadership ownership deemed appropriate.

“I was just doing what I felt was the right thing to do,” Kennedy later explained.

Late that season, Behring and Kennedy found themselves at midfield at the Kingdome, as the club president presented Kennedy with the Steve Largent Award trophy that has been voted annually since 1989 to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks.

It seemed a fitting end to a disjointed 1996 season that was like none other in franchise history because of the events of that offseason.

Year in Review
7-9 (tied for fourth in AFC West)
Ken Behring
Dennis Erickson
QB Rick Mirer and RB Chris Warren (off.), LB Winston Moss and LB Terry Wooden (def.), P Rick Tuten (ST)
DT Cortez Kennedy
Man of the Year
K Todd Peterson
Largent Award
Leading Passer
John Friesz (120 of 211 for 1,629 yards, with 8 TDs and 4 interceptions)
Leading Rusher
Warren (855 yards)
Leading Receiver
Joey Galloway (57 receptions for 987 yards)
Leading Tackler(s)
MLB Dean Wells (107)
Special Teams Tackles
S Jay Bellamy (34)
Interception Leader(s)
FS Darryl Williams (5)
Sack Leader
DE Michael McCrary (13˝)
Leading Scorer(s)
Peterson (111 points)
Pro Bowl Selection(s)
Kennedy, DE Michael Sinclair
Kennedy (second team)


1996: Field of schemes

The 1996 season had its memorable moments for the Seahawks. Defensive end Michael McCrary led the AFC with 13˝ sacks.

Key Date
December 8, 1996

Seahawks snap three-game losing streak with 26-18 win over visiting Buffalo Bills. Chris Warren rushes for 116 yards, his franchise record 24th career 100-yard game.

Key Date
October 6, 1996

John Friesz throws touchdown passes of 51, 65 and 80 yards, the latter with 2:03 left to Brian Blades, for a 22-15 win at Miami.

Key Date
November 10, 1996

Seattle completes three wins in three home games by defeating the Minnesota Vikings, 42-23.

Key Date
November 3, 1996

Michael McCrary blocks Houston’s game-winning field goal with 16 seconds left, recovers it, and laterals to Robert Blackmon to complete a 68-yard touchdown return to give Seattle a 23-16 win. John Friesz throws for 323 yards, Seattle’s first 300-yard passing game since 1990.

Pete Kendall Selected in First Round
April 20, 1996

Seahawks select Boston College tackle Pete Kendall in the first round with the 21st overall pick. Seattle had traded down twice in the first round, acquiring defensive tackle Glenn Montgomery from the Houston Oilers in the first deal and adding an extra third-round pick from the Detroit Lions in the second.

Key Date
September 22, 1996

Lamar Smith’s 14-yard run with 31 seconds left gives Seahawks a 17-13 win at Tampa Bay, their first win after three losses

14- Month Option for Paul Allen to Purchase the Team
April 20, 1996

Ken Behring and Seattle native Paul Allen enter into an exclusive 14-month option for Allen to purchase the Seahawks. Allen can exercise the option at anytime until July 1, 1997. Allen is named Chairman of Football Northwest, Inc., with Bert Kolde serving as Vice Chairman and Bob Whitsitt as President.

Key Date
September 1, 1996

Seahawks start 21st season with 29-7 loss at San Diego.

Ken Behring Announces Move of Franchise
February 2, 1996

Team owner Ken Behring announces that he is moving the franchise.

Key Date
November 10, 1996

The Seahawks post season highs in points (42), yards (452) and time of possession (37:37) in winning their third consecutive game, 43-23 over the Vikings at the Kingdome. The defense sets up 29 of the points with turnovers, including interceptions by Jay Bellamy and Winston Moss. Rick Tuten also sets a franchise record by placing six punts inside the 20-yard line.

Key Date
November 17, 1996

Seattle misses a last play field goal in 17-16 loss at the Detroit Lions. Lamar Smith rushes for a career high 148 yards in his first career start. Seahawks also lose quarterback John Friesz for remainder of the season with a broken leg.

Key Date
December 22, 1996

Seahawks close season with 28-21 win at Oakland. Seattle forces seven turnovers and wins with backup quarterbacks Stan Gelbaugh and Gino Torretta playing for John Friesz (broken leg) and Rick Mirer (quadriceps). Torretta passes 32 yards to Joey Galloway for his first career touchdown. Lamar Smith rushes for two touchdowns.

Everybody was wrestling with: Do we get our hearts ready to play down here? Back in Seattle? Do we move our families down here? Do we want to move our families down here? It was just overwhelming at times.
Mack Strong
Football is much more than a civic chore for me now. I’ve gotten hooked on the weeklong buildup to Sunday, to the point where I can’t tell you which I enjoy more, the Seahawks or the Blazers.
Paul Allen
1996 Season Schedule
9/1 AT San Diego 7-29 L
9/8 Denver 20-30 L
9/15 Kansas City 17-35 L
9/22 AT Tampa Bay 17-13 W
9/29 Green Bay 10-31 L
10/6 AT Miami 22-15 W
10/17 AT Kansas City 16-34 L
10/27 San Diego 32-13 W
11/3 Houston 23-16 W
11/10 Minnesota 42-23 W
11/17 AT Detroit 16-17 L
11/24 Oakland 21-27 L
12/1 AT Denver 7-34 L
12/8 Buffalo 26-18 W
12/15 AT Jacksonville 13-20 L
12/22 AT Oakland 28-21 W
1996 Record
1996 Offense
C Ed Cunningham 0
C Frank Beede 0
C Kevin Mawae 16
G Derrick Graham 16
G Pete Kendall (R) 11
T Grant Williams 0
T James Atkins 16
T Howard Ballard 16
T Robert Barr 0
TE Coleman Bell 0
TE Clarence Benford 0
TE Ronnie Williams 0
TE Carlester Crumpler 7
TE Christian Fauria 9
WR Eddie Goines 0
WR Joey Galloway 16
WR James McKnight 0
WR Mike Pritchard 0
WR Ricky Proehl 7
WR Ronnie Harris 0
WR Brian Blades 9
QB Gino Torretta 0
QB John Friesz 6
QB Rick Mirer 9
QB Stan Gelbaugh 1
FB Oscar Gray 0
FB Mack Strong 8
RB Steve Broussard 0
RB Reggie Brown 0
RB Chris Warren 14
RB Lamar Smith 0
RB Dou Innocent 0
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1996 Defense
DE Michael Sinclair 16
DE Matt LaBounty 0
DE Michael McCrary 13
DE Antonio Edwards 0
DE Phillip Daniels 0
DT Henry McMillian 0
DT Joe Nash 0
DT Pat Riley 0
DT Cortez Kennedy 16
DT Keif Bryant 0
DT Sam Adams 16
NT Glenn Montgomery 0
LB James Logan 0
LB Tyronne Stowe 0
LB Eric Unverzagt 0
LB Jason Kyle 0
MLB Dean Wells 15
OLB Terry Wooden 9
OLB Mike Barber 7
OLB Winston Moss 16
CB Carlton Gray 16
CB Corey Harris 16
CB Dexter Seigler 0
DB Selwyn Jones 0
DB Fred Thomas 0
DB T.J. Cunningham 0
FS Darryl Williams 16
SAF Jay Bellamy 0
SS Robert Blackmon 16
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1996 Special Teams
K Todd Peterson 16
P Rick Tuten 16
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1996: Won't Back Down

VIDEO: 1996: Won't Back Down

On this Day in Seahawks History