Why the NFL’s Best Team Won’t Win the Super Bowl
Despite Seattle being just as strong as it was in 2013—if not outright better—there’s one convincing reason it won’t lift the Lombardi again. Plus, the Rams’ sad turn, Arizona uncovers a gem and 20 thoughts after the NFL’s dress rehearsal
RENTON, Wash. — One after one, they fell out of the sky, these perfect or near-perfect throws downfield from Russell Wilson, always landing close to, or in the hands of, a sub-4.4 sprinter like Percy Harvin or wispy rookie Paul Richardson. I mean, always on target. Such beautiful deep balls, and isn’t Wilson supposed to be a system quarterback or game manager, or whatever negative connotation you can think of when you don’t want to acknowledge he’s a top 10 quarterback in the league after two seasons and one Lombardi Trophy?
“His ball’s so good it looks like it’s coming out of a JUGS machine,” Richard Sherman said.
There’s nothing not to like here. Maybe the offensive line, which worries the smart football people in the building. But nothing else. If the Seahawks stay relatively healthy, they should be favored to be the first team since the Patriots (2003, 2004) to repeat as champs.
But I’m not picking them. History is the reason. Stuff happens. It always does. And the game is justsoclose. Since New England’s second Super Bowl win a decade ago, and not including the ’13 Seahawks, this is the total playoff victories of the eight Super Bowl champions the following year:
I can’t give away my pick here; it’ll be in Sports Illustrated this week, in the annual pro football preview. I feel good about the pick, but I also feel that, of the 27 teams I witnessed in person this summer (at 22 camps, four games and one joint practice session), Seattle’s the best I saw. Stubbornness is a good reason why one of the other 31 teams will be my call, but the reality of repeating is that it’s become the toughest thing to do in sports. Think of it: For eight straight years, the defending champ has either not made the playoffs or hasn’t gotten past its first playoff game.
By what I saw in camp with the ’Hawks last Monday, I just might be blissfully unaware. This team’s stacked. The biggest thing might be the health of Harvin, who is as dangerous a non-quarterback as there is in football. Watching him run around the field on a pristine August day in Seattle, you almost forget what a mess Harvin was last season, when his year was wrecked by a torn labrum in his hip that required surgery. He was never right until Super Bowl Sunday. Harvin sure looks right now.
“That was the big frustration,” Harvin said. “Not practicing one day, trying to practice the next day, not feeling right, sitting out a few days, maybe being 60 percent for a few days. Frustrating. This year, I’m flying all over the place. Totally different world.”
“Iron sharpens iron,” Richard Sherman said. “Him practicing against our defense, Russell practicing against our defense and working with Percy, I think we’re going to be improved.”
Pete Carroll hasn’t focused on the R word. “Teams not repeating—that’s not topical to us,” he told me. “I just asked them to have the best offseason of their lives and to come back ready. They have. It’s all about putting your work in to be better. Just get better. Practice better, study better, play better. Do we maintain the same kind of intensity we had last year? I think so. But you’ve got to have the right guys. Like, Russell pulls his receivers together today before a drill and says, ‘Guys, okay, this next drill, full speed, catch every ball, it’s important. Let’s get better.’ ’’
More Seahawks: The MMQB’s Seattle training camp page
Hard for any team that won the Super Bowl by 35 points to look better the next year. But if Harvin plays every week—which is no lock, with his recent injury history—I could well be eating my prediction in five months. Which, as you know, will be nothing new.
And now for some stories from the end of my camp trail. My trip ended Saturday night with the completely forgettable Dallas-Miami game.