"We were all very aware of how close (Alexander) is to the touchdown record. "He's had a great year. He's done everything we've asked him to do and more. I didn't want him to miss out if I could help it like he did last year. Last year no one wanted that to happen to miss the rushing title by a yard. I just didn't want that to happen again." – Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren
2005 (the year, not the season) began in soap-opera fashion for the Seahawks, as Seattle beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-26 on January 2nd by denying their opponent a last-second two-point conversion. However, the division title secured by that victory was bittersweet, coming as it did after two regular-season losses to their primary NFC West opponent, the St. Louis Rams. This season sweep would soon become a trifecta with the Rams’ wild-card victory at Qwest Field.
Most good feelings after the Atlanta game were jettisoned after Shaun Alexander’s oft-aired post-game comments, in which he claimed a “backstabbed” feeling after not being allowed to gain at least the extra yard that would have allowed him to tie Curtis Martin of the New York Jets for the NFL rushing title. That locker-room grievance spoke to a larger dichotomy between the offense Mike Holmgren wanted to run, and the offense Alexander wanted to help define.
At the year’s conclusion, Alexander finally found that extra yard, on the way to a share of the league’s single-season touchdown title. The rushing crown is seemingly a foregone conclusion, and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award should rightfully follow – if Alexander can overcome the inevitable (and at this point, patently biased) East Coast media support for Tiki Barber of the Giants.
Alexander has been a different player during the 2005 season– seemingly a different man. Signed to a one-year contract by the Seahawks in August, he has been playing for his financial future all season, and he has never gone into “protection mode”. On the contrary, he has run harder in 2005 than ever before – his estimably directed talents defining the new Seahawks mentality.
With a 13-2 record, and home field advantage wrapped up through the NFC playoffs, the Seahawks have taken another enormous step toward the late promises extended by Holmgren’s arrival in 1999. It would take a new face at the top, team president Tim Ruskell, to sign and align 53 men of muscle and put all that violent intention on the same track. This he has done, at a pace that should allow him at least one moment of tribute over the holiday weekend. For Ruskell, an NFL Executive of the Year award at season’s end would be more than fitting as well.
This new season, new team and new attitude could be summed up in that one extra yard. It took a year to gain it, but the key to these Seahawks, now and in the future, is condensed in that extra measure of distance.
The one yard they could not gain last season – the one yard that came easily in 2005. The difference?
Instead of dragging the lack of respect, denial of titles and inability to achieve at their true level of talent as traps attached to their legs, the Seahawks run free and clear toward an amazing future with all the joy and abandon of an Alexander cutback left behind Jones, Hutchinson and Strong.
That yard is now the one they gain together.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.