Are 2012 Seahawks better than Super Bowl version?

RENTON — Until now, there has been little debate as to which Seahawks team was the best in franchise history. The 2005 squad, after all, is the owner of the best-regular season record in team history and more importantly, it is the only Seahawks team to make it to a Super Bowl.

(And no, we won’t bother Seahawks fans with the details of what happened in said Super Bowl).

The question that has become surprisingly relevant in recent weeks, however, is this: can the 2012 version of the Seahawks be even better?

Halfway through the season, comparing the 2005 Seahawks to the current team would have sounded ridiculous. The 2012 Seahawks were 4-4* at the midway point, were inconsistent on offense, and were hardly a sure thing to make the playoffs, let alone be mentioned in the same sentence as a team that went 13-3 and won 11 straight games before losing a meaningless regular-season finale.

But as they prepare for their playoff opener in Washington, D.C., these Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winners of five straight and seven of eight in the season’s second half. The once struggling offense is catching up with the defense that was No. 1 in the league in points allowed, and as crazy as it might sound, this might be a more complete team than the one that went to a Super Bowl.

Which is the best Seahawks team?

Don’t take my word for it. That’s the opinion of linebacker Leroy Hill, one of two players still around from that 2005 team along with cornerback Marcus Trufant. Hill said that if his current team and his old one faced off, he would have to give a slight edge to the 2012 Seahawks.

“It’s so tough, but I would go with this team,” said Hill, who was a rookie in 2005. “I’d definitely go with this team. I think we’ve got the defense to match up with that offense that year. Early in the season, I’d have said the 13-3 team, but the way the offense has come along and progressed, and Russell (Wilson)’s progression, it’d be a hell of matchup, but I’d say 21-20 this team.”

Then again, what else is Hill supposed to say? It wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence to go on record five days before a playoff game saying: Well, we’re pretty good, but I’ve seen better. And besides, he and his teammates have every right to be a confident bunch the way Seattle has played of late.

When looking at the 2005 team compared to this one, there are plenty of differences, most notably the fact that the Mike Holmgren-led Seahawks were built around their offense, while this team, led by defensive-minded head coach Pete Carroll, thrives on defense. But one thing they have in common is the belief, spurred on by strong play late in the season, that they can be dangerous in the playoffs.

“Definitely the mentality,” Hill said. “We’re confident. That’s the biggest similarity I see between the two teams. We know what we’re doing. We can line up against anybody. We match up well against anybody. That’s the biggest thing between the two teams.”

What also stands out about the 2012 Seahawks compared to the Super Bowl team is the team’s youth. The 2005 Seahawks were a veteran team at its peak. The average age on that team was 27.1 and there were 13 players who were 30 or older, including many key offensive players like Matt Hasselbeck, Joe Jurevicius, Bobby Engram, Mack Strong, and three of the five starting linemen: Walter Jones, Chris Gray and Robbie Tobeck. The average age on the current roster is 25.7 and of the seven 30-and-over players, only Hill and defensive end Chris Clemons are starters.

“This team is a great team,” Trufant said. “The ‘05 team was a great team, but this team is a great team with a lot of young players, so this team can even get better. The upside is through the roof. All the young guys are just hitting their stride now. It’s just an all-around great team.”

In other words, even if the ‘12 Seahawks aren’t better than the ‘05 version just yet, they very well could be down the road.

“We’re definitely still on the rise,” Hill said. “Look at the (average) age compared to the rest of the league. … It’s just a young team over all, and this team can be good for a long time.”

Yet in the end, no matter how well these Seahawks are playing, or what anyone says about them now, this team can’t be in the same class as the ‘05 team unless it too gets to a Super Bowl. And yes, the road there is much harder, because unlike the ‘05 team, which earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage, the 2012 Seahawks have to win an extra game, play on the road, and likely stay there throughout the postseason. But as a player who has been on a team that made a playoff run, and also played on teams that have lost postseason games on the road, Hill thinks the 2012 Seahawks have what it takes to win wherever they play.

“I think we do,” he said. “I have no doubt in this team of what we can do and how far we can go. None at all. … Our confidence is sky high. We feel we can match up and scheme with anybody.”

Anybody, Hill says. Even the best team in franchise history.

Herald Columnist John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

*Correction, Jan. 3, 2013: In the original article, the Seahawks’ midseason record was incorrect.

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