GLENDALE, Ariz. — The prospects couldn’t be more hopeful for the players and coaches.
Now if only they didn’t have to wait eight months to see it come to fruition.
Even with a heartbreaking season-ending loss on Sunday, there’s no denying something special welling up among the Seahawks as the 2011 campaign closed out and the future opened up to the brightest of horizons.
“Here’s a football team that’s going someplace,” Coach Pete Carroll said during his postgame locker room speech on Sunday following the team’s 23-20 overtime loss in Arizona. “You can feel it.”
Indeed, it can be felt from the top of the organization all the way down to the bottom. The Seahawks are a team on the move — and going in the right direction.
Sunday’s game did anything to invalidate this season’s leaps-and-bounds progress, which was on display once again at University of Phoenix Stadium this weekend. The team bounced back from a 20-10 deficit with less than 10 minutes remaining on Sunday, scoring a touchdown and field goal while the defense mostly held the Cardinals in the final quarter to force overtime. The Seahawks grew in lasting ways this season, especially during the second half of the campaign as the squad rebounded from a 2-6 start to win five of six, including big victories over Baltimore, Philadelphia and Chicago.
The Seahawks ended up finishing the 2011 season with the same 7-9 record as the 2010 season. But the feeling and momentum toward the future is drastically different.
“Without question,” Carroll said postgame.
This year’s edition of the 7-9 Seahawks heads into next season laden with young talent, winners of five of their last eight and assured of a full offseason of practices, meetings and workouts. Last year’s version of the 7-9 Seahawks launched into the spring with an aged roster, wins in just two of their final six games (including playoffs) and the uncertainty of the pending lockout that would eventually wipe out all the traditional offseason preparation. Needless to say, optimism and hope abound for the Seahawks.
“There’s so much ahead of us — everything’s ahead of us,” Carroll told his players in the locker room after Sunday’s game.
But for the time being, the Seahawks can only think what could’ve been in 2011, as they found brutal ways to lose games throughout the year. There was the missed 61-yard field goal at the gun to fall by two points against Atlanta, a stuck-in-mud 6-3 defeat at Cleveland, the blowing of late-game leads at home against Washington and San Francisco, and the climbing back in the fourth quarter before eventually losing in overtime at Arizona — a total of five games that could’ve gone either way.
Thing is, good teams win those games. Seattle is on its way to becoming a great team — and winning those types of games that would entirely alter the complexion and direction of a season. But perhaps in order to come out on top in those kinds of games down the road, the Seahawks had to experience the pain of defeat now to sharpen and drive them for the future.
Either way, hopeful sentiment and positive momentum were palpable in the Seahawks’ locker room on Sunday night. If only the 2012 season could start next week.
“The spirit of this club and the spirit of the guys in this room is really special,” Carroll told his team. “This is a really cool group. We’re going somewhere.”
Time will tell how far they go in 2012 and beyond. In the meantime, though, they head into the offseason following a season full of ups and downs that will hopefully be remembered as what refined and honed the Seahawks to pave the way for future success.
“We got ‘Seahawks’ on three,” Carroll said to close out Sunday’s postgame address, his voice trailing into the countdown and the players’ response.
The players then scattered to their lockers, Carroll going stall-to-stall to shake hands and congratulate every one of the guys for their efforts this season. They then boarded buses and headed for the airport and a return flight to Seattle, where endless hope awaited.
Thankfully, less than seven months remained until training camp opens. The countdown has already begun.