Despite being recognized as one of the best offensive linemen of his era, Steve Hutchinson will have to wait a little longer to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another former Seahawks lineman, however, will be enshrined in Canton this summer, as Kevin Mawae was voted in on Saturday.
Hutchinson, who was one of 15 modern-era finalists for the Hall of Fame, was not among the eight people voted in. In addition to Mawae, four other modern-era finalists were voted in: safety Ed Reed, tight end Tony Gonzalez, cornerback Champ Bailey and cornerback Ty Law. Joining those five in the 2019 Hall of Fame class are two contributor nominees, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former Cowboys scout Gil Brandt, as well as Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson, who was a Veteran’s Committee nominee.
Hutchinson, who was in his second year of eligibility, was also a finalist last year, and was one of the final 10 candidates after the field was trimmed from 15 to 10 players, indicating he has a good chance to someday join former teammate Walter Jones, who he played next to for five seasons as Seattle’s starting left guard from 2001 to 2005, in the Hall of Fame.
Even if the Hall of Fame call will have to wait at least another year for Hutchinson, those who played with or against him regard him as one of the best to do his job.
“He’s a monster,” Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “He’s got great feet for as big as he is. He was one of the guys I didn’t like playing against because he was so good and if he got on you, you weren’t getting off of him. Pass blocking-wise, he was so athletic. He was a total package for a guard. ... I’ve played against Larry Allen. Larry Allen is the biggest dude. Steve is right there with him. Those two right there are two of the best guards I’ve played against, so in my opinion, he’s a Hall of Famer."
Hutchinson was a three-time Pro-Bowler and three-time All-Pro during five seasons in Seattle, and was part of the best offensive line in franchise history along with Jones, who was enshrined in Canton in 2014. In Hutchinson’s final year with the Seahawks, the 2005 team went 13-3 and reached Super Bowl XL. That team scored a league-high 452 points, which remains the franchise record for points in a season, and established what at the time were franchise-best marks for rushing yards and total yards. Running behind Hutchinson, Jones, center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray and right tackle Sean Locklear, running back Shaun Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards, scored a then NFL-record 28 touchdowns and was named league MVP.
“Where Hutch made the game different was just in that he was so powerful,” Alexander said. “The way most guards play, they cover up. Hutch would bully a linebacker or d-lineman in such a way that instead of me cutting back into the A-gap, I have the A-gap or I could go all the way outside to where Walt is on every play. That is a game changer because now linebackers cannot guess the hole.
“Hutch was so powerful and smart, it changed how we could come into games. We knew a one-technique or a three-technique was going to be in trouble and we always knew Hutch was a good enough athlete to get up to the linebackers whenever we needed. It made it a lot of fun.”
Added Jones, “We took the same approach each week, just going out and trying to be the best at our positions. That’s one thing that Hutch did since he got here in Seattle.”
After leaving the Seahawks in free agency, Hutchinson continued his career in Minnesota where he continued to play at an All-Pro level, and by the time he retired he was a seven-time Pro-Bowler, a six-time first-team All-Pro and a member of the 2000s All-Decade team.
Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said of Hutchinson, “Just as Walter Jones was the best tackle I ever saw, Steve Hutchinson was the best guard. He is one of the great players I ever coached. Steve was tough, smart and fierce. As his coach, I was pretty fortunate. He was one of my favorite players ever, he still is.”
Hutchinson was hoping to become the fifth player elected to the Hall of Fame after spending a significant portion of his career with the Seahawks, joining Jones, receiver Steve Largent, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and safety Kenny Easley, all of whom spent their entire careers in Seattle.
Five other former Seahawks are also in the Hall of Fame, though running back Franco Harris, quarterback Warren Moon, defensive end Carl Eller, defensive tackle John Randle and receiver Jerry Rice had all for the most part built their Hall of Fame résumés before becoming Seahawks.
While Hutchinson didn’t leave the Seahawks on the best of terms with fans following the 2005 season thanks to the infamous “poison pill” contract he signed with the Vikings, he has since reconnected with the team and been embraced by the organization and fans, even raising the 12 Flag prior to a playoff game in January of 2017.
“This is the team that drafted me, so this is a special place,” Hutchinson said after raising the 12 Flag. “This is the team that took a shot on me, and I like to think I helped build it to what it is now.”
Hutchinson noted at the time that he has been moved by the way Seattle fans have embraced him even if the nature of his departure angered a lot of fans at the time.
“It’s been great,” he said. “It took a while, I think there was a little bit of scarring there, but here we are 10 years later. To be able to do this and see the crowd go wild, it’s great.”
Mawae was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round of the 1994 draft, and earned All-Rookie honors that year as Seattle’s starting right guard. Mawae remained a starter at guard the following year, then in 1996 he moved to center, the position he would play the rest of his career.
After four seasons with the Seahawks, Mawae signed with the New York Jets in 1998, and went on to earn first-team All-Pro honors six times and Pro-Bowl honors eight times as a member of the Jets and the Tennessee Titans. Mawae, who retired in 2010, is a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team, and is a member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor.
Two other Hall of Fame candidates with Seahawks ties, running back Edgerrin James and head coach Tom Flores, fell short of election. James, a four-time Pro-Bowler and member of the 2000s All-Decade team, played the final seven games of his career with the Seahawks in 2009. Flores, who won two Super Bowl titles as the head coach of the Raiders, became the general manager of the Seahawks in 1989, then took over as head coach in 1992, holding that job until 1994.
Before kickoff of the Wild Card Round, Seahawks Legend Steve Hutchinson raised the 12 Flag at CenturyLink Field.