Someone at Fieldgulls said it best:
Week 1 Commandment #1:
Neither shalt thou get over-excited over a win or overly disappointed by a loss. Week 1 is the most anomaly filled day in all of sports. (King James emphasis mine, because I can.)
Today is a comedown day for Seahawks fans. I had almost forgotten just how nasty and vitriolic we football fans can be after a loss. And I'd forgotten it because the 12th Man just wasn't very nasty last year. Not like this. My memory of 2011 was of muted, resigned, relatively tranquil reactions when the Seahawks lost, not the sarcastic poo-flinging that we're seeing right now.
Why the difference? My fellow bloggers have already nailed it - expectations. Your therapist will tell you that your emotions are dependent mostly on your goals. In 2011, people stopped hoping as soon as Tarvaris Jackson signed. Hence, muted reactions. It was a development season, a punted year.
This year, Russell Wilson's preseason polish had folks thinking they could see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel. He faced a talented starting Kansas City defense that did not play the degree of sandlot football that some claim, and showed far more veteran polish that the typical preseason-disaster-in-waiting who just stares from the pocket like a rock and sidearms to wide-open guys. There was some real promise there. So the Arizona game was supposed to be the beginning of the get-well process - I myself mistakenly dubbed it "Week 5 of the preseason".
Here's what happened - Seattle started the season against a tougher defense than Kansas City, assured itself a heavy dose of blitzing by starting a rookie QB(!!!!!) against a well-respected NFL defensive coordinator, struggled in its very first game(!!!!!) on the road(!!!!!), and was still a Braylon Edwards drop(!!!!!) from winning.
Yes, that's what happened. Go back and look at the score. It was 20-16, not 120-16. You wouldn't know that from the current meltdown. The exclamation marks indicate things that aren't supposed to shock you.
Some will go "a loss is still a loss". Well, no, it's not. Not for this fan. I barely care about this season. I've never seen 2012 as a contention year, haven't since Pete Carroll arrived. Maybe I'll be surprised, but my expectations were limited from the outset. That puts me in the minority, but there it is. Championships take time to build. Pass rushes and star quarterbacks are the biggest examples of this, and we only just got those (maybe). And I'm not part of the camp that believes that teams can win Super Bowls with running and defense against a league dominated by Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. In my opinion, this team's Super Bowl window absolutely does not open until 2013 at the very earliest.
For me, the stakes on Sunday were still developmental. I wanted to see Russell Wilson play like a rookie Peyton Manning instead of a rookie David Greene (there's a difference); he did. He threw several winning touchdowns that got dropped, bought at least two first downs with his feet that I remember, and never once folded or lost composure. His ball placement was erratic but (FAINT PRAISE ALERT) remains a world improved from Tarvaris Jackson. Yeah, he "played like a rookie", but that current popular phrase could mean a million different things. Wilson looked nowhere near as primitive as that blunt instrument that's starting in Miami.
And no, I'm not convinced that Matt Flynn would have done any better. Despite his reputation for handling blitzes well in Green Bay, Flynn looked slow with his reads and downright sack-prone in a full game's worth of preseason snaps. It's not hard to provide a reason why - adjustment to much worse receivers on a differently-called offense. My guess: Flynn would have been destroyed behind that O-line.
I wanted to see our running game pick up from 2011 without missing a beat; it did. I wanted to see our defense blanket Larry Fitzgerald and stymie our QB into sacks; it did, when instructed to. I wanted to see our pass rush tearing out the interior of Arizona's line and burying John Skelton in three hundred pounds of sweaty man.
Okay, so that last part blew chunks. That's really what worried me most. While everyone else was salivating and over-prognosticating Wilson's rookie season, I was excited about our defense growing into the ability to bring OTHER quarterbacks down to Wilson's level. I really hoped that this year's pass rush would find its way.
That clearly hasn't happened yet. No surprise - Game 1. Irvin is getting no better results than a lighter Lawrence Jackson, and actually reminds me of said now-Lion in his reliance on an ineffective bullrush. Chris Clemons was not his usual self against an Arizona tackle situation that had deteriorated to Kyle Williams territory, although much of that was down to better pass scheming on Arizona's part. Alan Branch still isn't showing me the promise he apparently showed everyone else last season, and Jason Jones isn't yet an improvement.
But it's only Week 1. I get the distinct feeling that despite our hopes, Pete Carroll was still treating Week 1 as a preseason game. There was a bit of an experimental feel to it, given the narrow play-calling and tendencies (either that, or Darell Bevell really is an oaf). I don't agree with the experimental approach, but Pete has always shown an element of "growing into the season" in Seattle. No doubt there are elements of this going on, whether we like it or not.
We have a few players waiting in the wings, yet to emerge. John Moffitt will hopefully be back soon, and behind him, James Carpenter. Golden Tate will also return, to the delight of those who think another two-catches-a-game WR will change things. If the Jones experiment doesn't work out, we have another promising project in Jaye Howard. Doug Baldwin has yet to return to full strength.
As far as Wilson, I'm going to take great comfort in the fact that he was one dropped pass from winning. Pete Carroll has never been ignorant of the risk of starting a rookie. Is he willing to trade a few losses for the sake of more quickly building the experience of the QB with more upside? Are fans willing to watch this?
Besides, let's be honest: if Braylon Edwards makes that TD catch, the tone around here would be much different and we all know it. It'd be about how Wilson "did enough to win an ugly game", and you wouldn't see nearly the intensity of the criticism. The ultimate setter of tone, the emotional filter through which we critique, is always whether we win or lose. There'd be the few isolated worriers and naysayers, but they'd get drowned out.
This reaction isn't about where the team is. It's about where we are. This is about losing. We don't like to lose. We shouldn't. But progress is happening, folks. It may not come on our schedule, but it is coming.