Terry Bradshaw is known more for the homespun candor he offers TV viewers than his impetuous ability to sculpt gracefully worded sentences. Last Sunday, moments after the Green Bay Packers earned a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks for the NFC Championship, found the Hall of Fame quarterback in his typical, born-to-be-a-ramblin’ man form.
“The one thing is, I expect, certainly, the Green Bay Packers to come in and play different,” predicted Bradshaw, referring to The Pack’s docile game plan for the Seahawks in a 36-16 loss Sept. 4. “I think Mike McCarthy, the head coach, has already said he made a mistake by not being aggressive enough. You have to be careful when you do that, but up there in Seattle, sometimes all the sudden you say to yourself ‘It’s been what? Ten years since we had a repeat champion? Nine years?’
“I will say this: They smell being a part of history. This is not a team that’s afraid of being good, and that’s very important.”
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I’ve heard a thousand different descriptions of the Seahawks’ ascent to excellence under head coach Pete Carroll. None is more accurate than Bradshaw’s insistence that they “smell being a part of history.”
The Hawks have a chance to join the 1982-83 Washington Redskins as the only teams since the league merger to win consecutive NFC titles at home. It’s a potential distinction requiring some good fortune — definition of good fortune: a healthy quarterback — and opponents presenting favorable matchups.
(Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is hobbling with a left-calf muscle tear. Rodgers’ limited mobility, and the absence of a breakaway-threat running back, makes the Packers a much better matchup for the Seahawks than, say, the Dallas Cowboys. The replay review that overturned Dez Bryant’s obvious catch near the goal line last Sunday represents an ulterior definition of good fortune.)
But there’s another factor at work, and Bradshaw identified it. The Seahawks aren’t fazed by their status as substantial favorites girding for their Super Bowl appearance in two seasons. They aren‘t fazed playing the role of The Team Every Other Team Yearns To Beat.
A Carroll quote, published in USA Today, comes to mind.
“It’s been so much fun to have the expectations elevated and the standards that everyone kind of sets up around you — it’s perfect. I’m not going to try to ramp it down, because it is what it is. We have earned our position to be where we are and we’ll see how we handle it. When we handle it well, we’re going to be really good.”
Carroll shared those thoughts in the summer of 2013, six months before his team cleared the highest bar associated with great expectations. A year and a half later, approaching a bar set yet higher, the head coach’s happy-to-embrace-all-challenges mantra has only intensified .
“We’ve had the opportunity to experience the best of the NFC,” Carroll said Monday. “Our guys are really getting a full experience of it and it’s wonderful to see the guys grow up and find out what this thing is all about. It’s about the hard work and the success and the giving to one another and what you can get out of that when you really give of yourself.
“This has been a wonderful experience for all of us. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
If the Seahawks accomplish nothing else this season, they’ve acquired bragging rights as the first team since the 1969-71 Minnesota Vikings to lead the league in fewest points allowed three consecutive seasons.
Historic achievements can be measured in many sizes. Surrendering the fewest points is more a footnote than a headline, and the Hawks are all about headlines.
Nothing against the 1969-71 Vikings, but the ambition is to belong to the more renowned club of back-to-back Super Bowl winners. Seven teams are under the tent: Green Bay (1966-67); Miami (1972-73); Pittsburgh (1974-75, and 1978-79); San Francisco (1988-89); Dallas (1992-93); Denver (1997-98) and New England (2003-2004).
And while no team has won back-to-back-to-back Super Bowls, only the Seahawks, among 32 NFL franchises, are in position to do that next season.
Envisioning a “Re-Pete” followed by a “Three-Pete,” of course, violates every aspect of taking one game at a time. Still, the aspiration is legitimate.
An opportunity to achieve the unprecedented awaits Pete Carroll’s team. There’s a long way to go, but the Seahawks are on the right path thanks to the most primal of senses.
History beckons, and they smell it.