Craig: Seahawks built to last

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2014 - 10:54 PM

With a youthful roster and most of their best players under contract, Seattle doesn’t want to settle for one title.

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It wasn’t so long ago Russell Wilson was riding buses in minor league baseball; Monday, he found himself next to Jay-Z and Beyoncé as a Super Bowl champion quarterback.

Photo: Kathy Willens • Associated Press,

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– Peyton Manning and the Broncos had been bludgeoned and the green confetti had already fallen over Super Bowl XLVIII when the overachieving quarterback on the underdog Seahawks shared a story about what his father told him growing up as an undersized athlete.

“He’d say, ‘Russ, why not you?’ ” said Russell Wilson, the 5-11 quarterback whose turnover-free 123.1 passer rating complemented Seattle’s defensive dominance perfectly in a 43-8 rout of Denver at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

“And what that meant was believe in yourself. So at the beginning of the season, I told the guys, ‘Hey, why not us?’ ”

Why not them, indeed.

Come to think of it, why not them again?

A Super Bowl champion has successfully defended its title only eight times, the last one being New England nine years ago. But at the risk of being fooled by an unpredictable league that changes from week to week, let alone year to year, the Seahawks seem to be different from their two immediate predecessors. The Giants in 2012 and the Ravens in 2013 not only didn’t defend their titles successfully, they didn’t even make the playoffs the year after raising the Lombardi Trophy.

Sunday night, the Seahawks were enjoying their franchise’s first Super Bowl victory when players already were being asked if they thought this could be just the beginning of a lengthy championship run. This is, after all, an organization that has a young, deep, salary cap-friendly roster and four keen, egoless eyes for hidden talent between General Manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.

“Definitely,” safety Earl Thomas said. “You definitely want to enjoy this one first, but, obviously, once I get success like this, I want more success. It’s just a great feeling. When you’re on top, you just want to stay at the top because everybody is gunning for you.”

The starting units that Seattle put on the field Sunday night averaged 26.1 years on offense, 26.0 years on defense and had only two players — one on either side of the ball — older than 28. No starter in the “Legion of Boom” secondary is older than 25, while all three linebackers are younger than 27.

Wilson is only 25, yet he has a 29-8 record as an NFL starter, including playoffs. That moved him one past Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger for the most victories by a quarterback in his first two seasons during the Super Bowl era.

Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith is a 24-year-old former seventh-round draft pick, yet he became the fourth-youngest MVP in Super Bowl history.

Percy Harvin, who had four touches for 137 yards including an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, is only 25.

And in the secondary, including backups, only one player — Thomas, a 2010 first-round pick — was drafted higher than the fourth round. Six of the eight defensive backs who played Sunday are younger than 26, and none of them is older than 27.

“We’re a bunch of misfits, in some ways,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Fifth round, Kam Chancellor; sixth round, Byron Maxwell; fifth round, Richard Sherman; fourth round, K.J. Wright. … We have a lot of guys that not a lot of people have heard of, but I think everybody learned how complete of a team we are.”

Among the starters or key players who will become unrestricted free agents in March are cornerback Walter Thurmond, right tackle Breno Giacomini, defensive lineman Michael Bennett, receiver Golden Tate, kicker Steven Hauschka and fullback Michael Robinson.

All of Seattle’s moves will be with an eye on what they will have to do to accommodate Thomas and Sherman with large paydays before their deals expire at the end of the 2014 season. Wilson, who counted only $690,000 against the cap this year, will no doubt require a mega deal before his current one expires in 2015.

Seattle, however, has some salary cap flexibility with the contracts of some of its older and less productive players. That, coupled with consistently shrewd drafting, coaching continuity and Sunday’s unquestioned utter dominance of a record-setting offense and quarterback, already has the Seahawks as a 9-2 favorite to win Super Bowl XLIX, according to sports book Bovada.

Why not them, again?

 

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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