Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011, The 2.8% Season

There had been 35 seasons of Seahawks football before this 2011 campaign began. There have been 7 division titles and 11 playoff appearances, but what has happened this season is far more rare. Five times, prior to 2011, the Seahawks started the season with a 2-6 record. Of the teams that started 2-6, only one ever rallied to reach .500 at any point after the poor start. Dennis Erickson's 1995 team, his first in Seattle, started out 2-6 and got to 7-7, before finishing the season 8-8. Once in 35 years. Or, 2.8% of the time. That is what Pete Carroll and team have pulled off in 2011.

No Seahawks team has ever been more than four games under .500 and ever climbed back to .500 before the year finished. Only one team, the franchise worst 2-14 team in 1992, started worse than 2-6. Those 2-6 teams finished with a combined record of 31-49. Pull out Erickson's 1995 team, and they fall to 23-41, a 0.359 winning percentage. In other words, these are some of the worst years in the history of a franchise that hovers right around .500 overall heading into this season.

There are some similarities to how the 1995 and 2011 team's pulled off their turnarounds. Both teams drastically increased their scoring, turned the ball over less, played far better defense, and forced far more turnovers. When the 2011 Seahawks were 2-6, they looked like this:

SCORING: 15.3
OPPONENT SCORING: 23.1
TURNOVERS: 2.3
OPPONENT YARDS: 353
PASSING YARDS: 242.4
OPPONENT TURNOVERS: 2.2

In this six game stretch where the team went 5-1, they look like this:


SCORING: 27 (+11.7)
OPPONENT SCORING: 14.7 (-8.5)
TURNOVERS: 1.3 (-1)
OPPONENT YARDS: 292.7 (-60.3)
PASSING YARDS: 191.8 (-50.5)
OPPONENT TURNOVERS: 3.0 (+0.8)

Their offensive mix has changed, but they are only gaining an extra 13.5 yards per game. Over 70% of the offense was coming through the air in the first eight games. That has changed to a more balanced 60/40 split of pass to run. They were at 88.3 rushing yards per game, and are now up to 124.7 the last six.

The 1995 team raised their scoring by 9.1 points, dropped their turnovers by 1.1, cut opponent yardage by 52.1, lowered opponent passing yardage by 55.9, and forced 0.5 more turnovers. That secondary caught fire a bit with Robert Blackman, Eugene Robinson, Carlton Gray, and Corey Harris. The defensive line featured a  27-year-old Cortez Kennedy, a 22-year-old Sam Adams, a 27-year-old Michael Sinclair, and a 25-year-old Antonio Edwards. Joe Nash was 35, Michael McCrary was a part-timer at 25, and linebacker Terry Wooden was the team leader in tackles with 114. Rick Mirer was the QB, Chris Warren was the running back, and Brian Blades teamed with a young Joey Galloway at receiver.

That team did not appear to face the same injury situation this 2011 squad has. There were also a few flash games where the 1995 team forced 5 turnovers, where this year's team has forced at least two turnovers in five of the last six games. One year need not be more impressive than the other. They both represent great accomplishments in team history.

Erickson's tenure, along with Randy Mueller in the front office, marked a similar infusion of young talent. They were responsible for Galloway, Christian Fauria, Pete Kendall, Phillip Daniels, Shawn Springs, Walter Jones, Itula Mili, Anthony Simmons, Todd Weiner, and Ahman Green. That's an imposing list of talent, but Erickson was never able to get the team over the top, or even into the playoffs. He was a college coach who had a ton of success in Miami with some allegations that hit the university after he left. Many considered him a player's coach. Sound familiar?

Carroll and Schneider have already won a division and a playoff game, so the comparison only goes so far. Take a moment to appreciate how rare this season has been. One can forgive the Seahawks fan base that was caught off-guard by this resurgence. It simply does not happen to this franchise very often. Many fans have never seen a season like this. Here's to hoping the 2011 Seahawks become the first team in franchise history to fall four games below .500 and finish with a winning record.

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