The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Seattle Seahawks: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Seattle Seahawks Historyby Steve Largent (Foreword by), Chris Cluff
Genuine fans take the best team moments with the less than great, and know that the games that are best forgotten make the good moments truly shine. This monumental book of the Seattle Seahawks documents all the best moments and personalities in the history of the team, but also unmasks the regrettably awful and the unflinchingly ugly. In entertaining—and unsparing—fashion, this book sparkles with Seahawks highlights and lowlights, from wonderful and wacky memories to the famous and infamous. Such moments include the Jim Zorn fake field goal and the heady play of Steve Largent, as well as the Brian Bosworth fiasco and the near move to Los Angeles. Whether providing fond memories, goose bumps, or laughs, this portrait of the team is sure to appeal to the fan who has been through it all.
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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Seattle Seahawks
Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Cut-Wrenching Moments from Seattle Seahawks History
By Chris Cluff
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2007 Chris Cluff
All rights reserved.
When Curt Warner took off down the right sideline for a 60-yard gain against Kansas City on his first NFL carry in 1983, it was obvious the Seahawks had changed. They had become Ground Chuck, a team that under new coach Chuck Knox planned to rely on its stud running back and a tougher defense.
While the defense didn't come around as quickly as Knox hoped it would, giving up the most yards in franchise history, Warner more than lived up to his status as the number three pick in the 1983 draft and helped the Seahawks reach the playoffs for the first time and establish themselves as perennial playoff contenders for the rest of the decade.
Warner gave the Seahawks the game-breaking running back they had not had throughout their first seven seasons. In his first season he set team records with 335 carries, 1,449 yards, six 100-yard games, and the first 200-yard rushing performance in team history. He also led the AFC with 14 touchdowns. It all earned him a Pro Bowl berth and awards for AFC rookie of the year and offensive player of the year.
Quarterback Dave Krieg had seen it coming in training camp when he handed the ball to Warner and saw how he cut to daylight, making something out of nothing. "He made a couple moves and got through the hole so fast. He was quick in the hole. His will to get yards was incredible."
While Warner was the biggest acquisition in 1983, Knox made a few other key moves that paid off. He brought in veteran linemen Blair Bush and Reggie McKenzie and tight end Charle Young. But even with those additions, the Seahawks didn't look all that different from the 1982 team, which had gone 4–5 in a strike-shortened season during which coach Jack Patera had been fired.
With his team scuffling along at 4–3 and trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers 24–0 at halftime at the Kingdome, Knox decided he needed to make one more change. He replaced quarterback Jim Zorn, who had started 100 games since the team was created in 1976, with Krieg, the former undrafted free agent who would soon be known far and wide as the guy from "now-defunct" Milton College. Krieg nearly rallied the Seahawks against the Steelers — Seattle lost 27–21 — and gave the offense some confidence.
Paul Moyer, a rookie safety in 1983 who has been with the club for nearly every season since as a player, coach, or broadcaster, calls the Pittsburgh game the turning point of that season.
"We lost, but obviously it was the beginning of Krieg's career as the starting quarterback," Moyer said. "We had a lot of confidence in Krieg, and he had a lot of confidence in himself. Dave had that 'just gonna let it fly' mentality."
In the first seven and a half games, Zorn had completed barely 50 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Krieg was stellar in his place, hitting 60.5 percent of his throws and tossing 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Krieg's passer rating of 95.0 that season still stands as the best in team history.
"Dave was a guy that every time he got in the game, you couldn't figure out how he got the ball in the end zone. But he was able to do that," Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent said. "We just sort of laughed about how he could move the ball. He threw sidearmed or ran around and scrambled to make a throw. But he kept the ball moving. He was a super-competitive guy and a lot more talented than people gave him credit for. But he never knew it."
Krieg sparked the Seahawks to wins in their next two games. They still were just 6–6, though, when they hosted the Kansas City Chiefs on November 27 in a game that gave them the confidence they needed. Warner rushed for a team-record 207 yards and scored three times, and Norm Johnson kicked the tying and winning field goals as the Seahawks won 51–48 in overtime, the highest-scoring game since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.
"Going through the season, the team didn't know how to win yet. We were floundering around .500," Moyer said. "But in the Kansas City game, our team said, 'Whoa! Maybe the magic's on our side.'"
The Seahawks were blown out by the Dallas Cowboys the next week, but they got some more magic in the penultimate contest at the Meadowlands, where the Seahawks faced the Giants, who were struggling in Bill Parcells's first season as coach.
Jacob Green had been complaining and waiting for it all day. Held by Giants right tackle John Tautolo all game, the star defensive end finally drew the flag on the most important play as the Seahawks held a tenuous 17–12 lead.
As Jeff Rutledge dropped back to throw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Earnest Gray with 25 seconds left, Tautolo put his best wrestling move on Green — and referee Jerry Markbreit finally flagged him for it. The touchdown was called back, and the Giants failed to convert fourth-and-17 when Kerry Justin and Keith Simpson broke up Rutledge's pass to Byron Williams at the 2-yard line.
"That was big," Moyer said. "If we lose that game, we don't make the playoffs. That was a big one."
In a winner-gets-in game in the season finale at the Kingdome, the Seahawks took care of the New England Patriots 24–6 to set up a rematch with the Denver Broncos.
The Seahawks had split the season series, winning 27–19 at the Kingdome and losing 38–27 in Denver. The Seahawks hosted the wild-card playoff game because they had won their final game while the Broncos had lost to Kansas City. With the home-field advantage of the Kingdome behind him, Krieg completed 12 of 13 passes and threw three touchdown passes as the Seahawks dominated 31–7 behind a defense that was gaining confidence despite having surrendered 6,029 yards that season (a number that stood as the most in franchise history until the 2000 team surrendered 6,391).
The Seahawks then went to Miami as huge underdogs and pulled off a 27–20 upset on a comeback led by Krieg, Warner, Largent, and Seattle's special teams (see chapter 6). That set up the Seahawks for a surprising trip to the AFC Championship Game, and that's where the dream ride came to a crashing halt in a 30–14 blowout at the hands of the Los Angeles Raiders.
"Here I am coming from Milton College and planning to go to the Super Bowl," Krieg said of his inexperience, which reflected the youth of the entire Seattle team. "That's where the Raiders had a big advantage. They had been there before, so they knew what it took. We were in way over our heads."
1984: NO WARNER, NO PROBLEM
After the amazing run to the AFC title game, the Seahawks entered 1984 with Super Bowl expectations for the first time in franchise history.
It looked like they were ready to live up to them when they pounded Cleveland 33–0 in the first game of the season — the first time the Seahawks had ever won their opening game. The high hopes came crashing down, however, when Warner suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while running a sweep play.
"When it happened, the place went dead silent. Really quiet," Moyer recalled of the Kingdome. "As a team, we could have lost it. He clearly was a special player. Morale was certainly low. But this is where Chuck Knox probably doesn't get credit for being as great a coach as he was. He was a big believer in 'the next guy steps up.' Injuries were not an excuse. He assured us that we were going to have a big season still. Defensively, we had to step it up more."
Said Largent: "We lost him [Warner] and basically had a ragtag backfield of running backs — Dan Doornink, Eric Lane, and a host of other guys. Everybody was disappointed, particularly Curt. But I don't think any of us thought the season was over. We knew our whole season didn't ride on one running back."
Instead it rode on the shotgun arm of Krieg and a defense led by the guy who would become the NFL's defensive player of the year, safety Kenny Easley.
The defense, which had such a tough time in 1983, was much improved in 1984 because "everybody knew their role," Moyer said. Krieg and Moyer both credited defensive coordinator Tom Catlin with bringing the unit together.
"Kenny Easley, Dave Brown, and Jacob Green were the leaders," Moyer said. "We had a difficult front three with Green, Joe Nash, and Jeff Bryant. The secondary was incredibly smart. John Harris, Easley, and Dave Brown were extremely bright."
"It was a difficult defense to line up against," Moyer added. "People told us all the time, 'You guys do so much, it's hard to game plan against.'"
The result was one of the best units in franchise history. It set a team record for fewest points allowed (282), most sacks (55), and yards lost on sacks (398). Topped by Easley's 10 interceptions, the Seahawks led the league and set a team record with 38 picks. They returned a team-record seven of them for touchdowns. Easley, Brown (a career-high eight interceptions), and Nash (82 tackles and seven sacks) all were voted to the Pro Bowl.
The best defensive performances of the season came in back-to-back shutouts of San Diego and Kansas City at midseason. Easley intercepted three passes in a 24–0 win over the Chargers in San Diego, and the secondary intercepted a team-record six passes and set an NFL record by returning four of them for touchdowns in a 45–0 blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs at the Kingdome. Brown tied an NFL record by taking two back for scores.
The Chiefs threw the ball 55 times in that game — the most anyone had ever thrown against Seattle.
"We were pass rushing every single play," Nash recalled. "Jimmy Rourke, who was playing tackle for the Chiefs, says, 'Geez you aren't killing us bad enough?' ... Nothing went right for them that day."
With all that help from the high-scoring defense, the Seahawks set a team scoring record (418 points) that wouldn't be broken until the 2005 Super Bowl Seahawks scored 452.
"The defense had so many turnovers," Krieg said. "They played spectacular. They owed it to Tom Catlin, who took a lot of guys and brought them together."
Even without Warner, the offense came together behind Krieg. The fifth-year veteran set team records with 3,671 passing yards and 32 touchdowns and joined Largent (74 catches, 1,164 yards, 12 touchdowns) in the Pro Bowl.
"Curt got hurt," Krieg said, "and so now we've got to throw the ball a lot more. We end up winning with the defense creating turnovers and throwing the ball. We turned into Air Chuck."
The Seahawks won eight straight games, a team record that lasted until the 2005 team won 11 straight.
From a 31–28 win over Buffalo on October 14 through a 38–17 blowout against Detroit on December 2, they didn't drop a game. They won 12 of their first 14 games.
"We were on such a roll, we didn't believe we'd lose," Moyer said.
But they did. In Kansas City Bill Kenney threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns, and the Chiefs intercepted six passes in a 34–7 retributive strike that made up for the 45–0 blanking they had suffered at the Kingdome a month before. Krieg, who had thrown for 700 yards and eight touchdowns the previous two weeks in wins against Denver and Detroit, threw five interceptions and just one touchdown pass against the Chiefs.
That loss set up a huge game in the season finale at the Kingdome against the Broncos, who were tied with the Seahawks at 12–3. The winner would win the AFC West.
The Seahawks intercepted four of John Elway's throws in the first half, but Denver used two turnovers early in the third quarter to take a 17-point lead in what became a 31–14 win. The Broncos gained the first-round bye and home game that came with the division title while the Seahawks had to play in the first round against the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Raiders.
The Raiders had easily handled the Seahawks in the AFC Championship Game the previous season on the way to winning the Super Bowl. But the Seahawks were no longer intimidated. Doornink ran for 123 yards and Krieg hit Daryl Turner with a 26-yard touchdown pass as the Seahawks won 13–7 in what turned out to be the last playoff win for the Seattle franchise until the 2005 team won twice on its way to the Super Bowl.
The next week, the Seahawks traveled to Miami for the second straight year to play the Dolphins, who had gone 14–2 that season. Dan Marino, their second-year star, threw three touchdown passes as the Dolphins avenged the 1983 upset losswith a 31–10 win in what Miami receiver Mark Clayton called "get-back day."
The Seahawks had fallen short of the Super Bowl again, but they had overcome the loss of one of their best players and put together the best season in team history.
"We lost Curt Warner, and everybody played better," Krieg said. "Our defense played well, role players played well, we figured out how to win games. It was a fun, fun year."
THE BLUE ANGEL
Sure, Steve Largent ended up with every major NFL receiving record by the time he retired in 1989. But one of the most satisfying moments of his career had nothing to do with records. It was all about payback.
Amid all of Largent's records and honors and off-field works and his reputation as one of the classiest men in NFL history, Largent's hit on Denver safety Mike Harden still stands as one of the most memorable plays in Seattle sports history.
It was a fortuitous opportunity for Largent, who took full advantage of his chance to get revenge on Harden for a savage forearm hit in the 1988 season opener that mangled Largent's face mask, dislodged two teeth, and knocked the 34-year-old receiver unconscious and out of the game.
"I was out before I hit the ground," Largent recalled. "It was probably the hardest I'd ever been hit in my life. It's one of those plays you don't forget."
The Seahawks managed to win 21–14, but Largent had no chance to make Harden and the Broncos pay for the brutal hit that ended up costing Harden a $5,000 fine. That is, until the rematch three months later.
In a Sunday night game televised by ESPN, the Seahawks hosted the Broncos at the Kingdome, and Largent got his chance for payback. Early in the first half, Harden intercepted a pass from Dave Krieg in the end zone and ran toward the left sideline as he sought to elude the Seahawks' offensive players. From behind, Largent streaked toward Harden like a heat-seeking missile.
"I'm running after Harden, and he doesn't see me coming," Largent said. "He cut across the field, and I hit him with everything I had."
Krieg knew Largent was reveling in the retributive strike. "Steve stands over him like a heavyweight champ who had just knocked him out. Then he sees the ball rolling around and picks it up, remembering, 'That's right, there's a football game going on.'"
The Seahawks went on to pound the Broncos 42–14, eliminating Denver from the playoffs and setting up Seattle for its first AFC West title the next week.
Said Largent: "People asked me later: 'Did you know it was Mike Harden?' I absolutely knew. And I hit him with everything I had. It was one of the most satisfying moments in my career."
It's also one of the most memorable plays in Seattle sports history because it came from one of the most mild-mannered and least intimidating players in NFL history. As a poster depicting Largent in a flight suit once called him, he was the "Blue Angel" — a soft-spoken, good-hearted, classy Christian man who just happened to be one of the best wide receivers in the league.
Largent retired in 1989 with six major NFL records. A seven-time Pro Bowl player, Largent was so revered in Seattle that he became the first member of the Seahawks' Ring of Honor when he was inducted before his final game. He was so respected in the NFL that he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995, his first year of eligibility. And, at that time, the Seahawks also retired his No. 80, which joined No. 12 (see chapter 8) as the only numbers to be retired by the franchise.
Not bad for a guy the Houston Oilers didn't want — even though they had drafted him in the fourth round of the 1976 draft. Seattle assistant Jerry Rhome had been on the coaching staff at Tulsa, where Largent played college ball, and Rhome recommended Largent to coach Jack Patera. So the Seahawks procured the receiver from Houston for a mere eighth-round pick just before Seattle's first season began.
Excerpted from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Seattle Seahawks by Chris Cluff. Copyright © 2007 Chris Cluff. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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Meet the Author
Chris Cluff is a freelance writer and editor, formerly of the Seattle Times for more than a decade, and was the NFL reporterand editor for much of that time. He lives in Seattle. Steve Largent is a businessman, a politician formerly of the House of Representatives, and a retired wide receiver of the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks, for which he has been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was selected for the Pro Bowl on seven occasions, and his was the first Seahawks number to be retired. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Chris Cluff's book was very enlightening and informative. A job well done !! Looking forward in reading his second book about the Seattle Seahawks.