Frustrated with the Bowl Championship Series back in 2008, then-Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll lashed out at the imperfect system that picks the two teams that play for major college football's national championship.
"I think it stinks," Carroll said. "I don't think it's the way it should be."
Two seasons later, as first-year coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Carroll walked into a post-game news conference Sunday night as the first 7-9 division champion in NFL history.
"I hear this has never happened before, and I think that is kind of cool," Carroll said after a 16-6 victory over the visiting St. Louis Rams gave the Seahawks the NFC Worst, er, West title. "Wasn't it TCU that won for all the little guys?"
Yeah, but TCU was 13-0 when it beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Heck, the Seahawks aren't even bowl-eligible.
The Seahawks lost nine games. And all nine were by 15 points or more. They had back-to-back losses by a combined 64 points in Weeks 8 and 9. They lost five of their last seven.
Wait, there's more. The Giants and Buccaneers both finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs, despite beating the Seahawks 41-7 and 38-15, respectively.
Carroll isn't about to apologize, nor should he, for making the playoffs and getting to play the defending champion Saints (11-5) at home on Saturday.
"If you have followed my track record about systems you play in, whether college and the BCS or the NFL system, this is the system," Carroll said. "I don't give a crap about [how the Seahawks got here].
"I'm sure some other teams are a little disappointed in that. But there's some teams that are disappointed in the BCS system as well. You just play it out the best you can. I don't have a suggestion on how to fix it. This may never happen again."
Seattle actually is the third playoff team with a losing record in NFL history. But the other two came during the 1982 season that was shortened to nine games because of a strike.
After the strike that year, the NFL seeded eight teams in each conference. The Browns (4-5) and Lions (4-5) were the No. 8 seeds. They lost on the road in the first round by a combined 41 points to the Raiders and Redskins, respectively.
For years, the NFL has trumpeted parity as the backbone of the league's massive appeal and success. But was there a line crossed Sunday night in Seattle?
I mean, not only did the Seahawks win a division with a losing record, they did so while resting their starting quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, who has hip and back injuries but could have played, Carroll said. Charlie Whitehurst stepped in and got the job done if, in fact, 7-9 is now considered getting the job done.
For those who love parity, you now have a playoff participant who needs to win the Super Bowl just to finish with a winning record. If the Seahawks make the Super Bowl and lose, they'd be 10-10.
I suppose this was bound to happen when the league went to eight divisions in 2002. The league doesn't need to panic because it's an interesting novelty at this point. But the NFL should use this as the impetus to stop rewarding all division winners with a home playoff game. Let them into the playoffs, but then re-seed based on record.
Not only are the Seahawks a weak division winner, this also might be the best four wild cards the NFL has ever seen in the same season. Three wild cards -- the Saints, Jets (11-5) and Ravens (12-4) -- have a better record than their division-winning opponents this weekend. And while the Packers (10-6) have the same record as the Eagles, they beat the Eagles head-to-head this season.
"Not many teams can say they won 12 games," Ravens running back Ray Rice told reporters after Sunday's victory over the Bengals. "We had to win 12 games just to get a No. 5 seed."
If the playoff teams were seeded based on record and normal tiebreakers, here is how the conference seeds would look (actual seed in parenthesis):
NFC: 1. Falcons (1); 2. Saints (5); 3. Bears (2); 4. Packers (6); 5. Eagles (3); 6. Seahawks (4).
AFC: 1. Patriots (1); 2. Steelers (2); 3. Ravens (5); 4. Jets (6); 5. Colts (3); 6. Chiefs (4).