That forever-elusive 4-0 season start remains so for the Seattle Seahawks, but 0-4 is a distinct possibility. A loss Sunday, Sept. 11, at Jacksonville was much uglier than the 26-14 score, with grotesquery such as a Hawk turnover on the season's kickoff and four more giveaways as the day dragged on. Media apologists said during the immediate aftermath that the loss doesn't necessarily spoil the party for a club that made the playoffs the past two seasons. Then there are those of us who could conclude that this version of the NFL's all-time least-successful franchise again bears the party-poop stains of seventh-season coach Mediocre Mike Holmgren, with average talent and a 6-10 record taking form.
The prevailing expectation was that we'd be seeing a mature championship contender. Instead, it was like watching a replay of the day-before game the University of Washington Huskies lost to Cal, something like 156-17. Maturity is supposed to be personified by Matt Hasselbeck. But during many possessions, the veteran Hawk quarterback couldn't have engendered less confidence if he'd had "FEMA" on his jersey. It wasn't so much the ill-advised decisions that led to a trio of interceptions. Captain Matt repeatedly overlooked open receivers and under-threw primary targets. He forced his passes into dubious coverage situations and "scrambled" like he'd put his shoes on the wrong feet.
In truth, the Jacksonville Jaguars got breaks, with every tipped or fumbled ball falling into their hands. But the Hawks helped the opponent win the field-position game, making stupid decisions that repeatedly kept Seattle trapped inside its own 20 to start drives.
There was an upside, but it was brief. The team played a splendid second quarter, when all of Seattle's points were scored. One excuse for the Jags' success was that the absence of ailing defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes left Hawk defenders in the custody of an assistant coach. But Rhodes himself hasn't exactly shown strategic genius since his 2003 arrival. The other oft-cited excuse for a poor performance was the weather. Odd that the Jags didn't complain about the heat and humidity after a convincing win with a new offensive scheme and few mistakes on either side of the ball.
The Hawks, meanwhile, have raised the stakes for the franchise. A home opener Sunday, Sept. 18, against a solid Atlanta club led by Marquee Michael Vick suddenly has "must-win" urgency, lest the home boys start 0-2 before facing division nemeses Arizona and St. Louis (who might not be as bad as their 0-1 records), and Washington on the road. The Jacksonville game was a needed "W" for anybody expecting another Seattle playoff team. Some are inspired by the idea that the Hawks enjoy a relatively easy schedule this season, but a weak schedule doesn't much help a weak team. While contemplating "weak," try to remember the last time this outfit actually dominated an opponent.
The other reality is that Seattle fans have had it with having nothing to celebrate. For football partisans, the prospect of another one-win Husky season and a 6-10 Seahawks campaign might be the most sobering thought since the dawn of Prohibition.