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Weeks and months have passed since the Seahawks fell a yard short of back-to-back Lombardi trophies. Time is said to heal all wounds, but time will never change the outcome of that game. What time can offer is an opportunity for redemption. Pete Carroll and John Schneider are chasing the sunrise, doing everything they can to keep ascension and opportunity on their side. One championship would be below the standard they have set. History tells us that their ability to keep the Sun from setting on their ambitions is inextricably linked to how well they draft after their first ring.
The 49ers won the first Super Bowl in franchise history during their 1981 season. The strike happened the following year, and then San Francisco lost a heart-breaking conference championship in Washington when Mark Moseley kicked a game-winning field goal with 40 seconds left and the mighty Joe Montana was intercepted on the games final play. They failed to reach the Super Bowl again in 1984, but then went on a run where they won four rings over the next ten seasons.
They won at least ten games an astounding eighteen seasons in a row when setting aside the strike-shortened 1982 season. That stretch remains the model for consistent winning in the NFL. Many analysts are too quick to credit the lack of free agency as the key to their run, but it was the infusion of talent from the draft that truly created that dynasty.
From 1982, the year after their first Super Bowl win, all the way until 1991, the 49ers drafted at least one player each year that started for at least seven years. From 1983 until 1991, they drafted at least one Pro Bowl player. Players like Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, and Charles Haley were not on that first championship team. Bill Walsh often gets credit for his coaching prowess, but his personnel decisions were equally astounding.
Those players totalled 19 All-Pro selections, 59 Pro Bowl appearances, and 191 combined years as an NFL starter. Imagine drafting at least one Pro Bowl player for nine straight seasons. That is how dynasties are built.
Making it count
Schneider drafted at least one Pro Bowl player in each of his first three drafts, and more impressively, had an All-Pro player in each of those drafts. No player from the last two draft classes has made a Pro Bowl yet.
This upcoming draft for Seattle will have a massive impact on determining just how long the Seahawks championship window stays open. It is not enough to find a few starters. Dynasties are built with a consistent infusion of elite talent through the draft. It is not about volume. Seattle does not need five new Pro Bowl players. Just adding one would have a lasting impact, and it doesn’t much matter where that player is on the field.
San Francisco added great offensive lineman, receivers, corners, linebackers and more. Great players always make a team better even when there are other great players already at that position.
The 49ers may still be a hated Seahawks rival, but their history should provide some solace for fans still aching from the recent defeat. Dominant franchises needn’t be built before they win their first ring. Precision drafting after that first trophy is brought home is the best way to set a city up for repeated bites at the apple. Schneider must return to his early form this year to keep the Sun from setting too soon.