Amid fervent hand-wringing among fans about the Seattle Seahawks’ ability to persevere in the playoffs, we pause to offer a reflection on a feat. No trophy or other award accompanies it. But given the discord, tumult and mayhem that are part of this week for the 20 clubs that failed to make the postseason, we offer this list of current consecutive playoff appearances in the NFL (Super Bowl appearances in parentheses):
— 8—New England Patriots (XLVI, XLIX), Green Bay Packers (XLV)
— 5—Seattle Seahawks (XLVIII, XLIX)
— 3—Pittsburgh Steelers
— 2—Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans
— 1—Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons
The list demonstrates how diabolically hard it is to sustain annual quality in the NFL. Only four teams currently have three or more consecutive playoff appearances. Fans who lament Seattle’s 10-5-1 record need to check to see if their minds remain hinged.
The measurement is particularly relevant this week given that two franchises in the NFC West imploded their regimes after poor seasons. The confusion in San Francisco, where a new general manager will choose the 49ers’ fourth head coach in four years, is particularly acute.
A dim nephew of the DeBartolo clan, Jed York, is attempting to run the franchise into the ground. Before Sunday’s game with the Seahawks, he offed GM Trent Baalke. After the Niners’ 25-23 loss — the seventh in the past eight with Seattle — he fired coach Chip Kelly. A grim hat trick of enfeeblement.
In Los Angeles, coach Jeff Fisher, who insisted before the season that he wouldn’t go 7-9 again, fulfilled his promise by getting canned at 4-9 three days before the Dec. 15 game with the Seahawks. The Rams’ 4-12 season was the 12th loser in a row, and first one in LA, where owner Stan Kroenke’s poor decision-making has begun to alienate fans the way he pissed off Rams supporters when the team was in St. Louis.
Including the health-related retirement of the Broncos’ Gary Kubiak, the NFL has six coaching vacancies. That’s one fewer than a year ago at this time, but the season is not over. Among the 125 teams that play big-time college football, there’s been 19 coaching changes so far. Once the folks at Florida Atlantic University spend a full day around Lane Kiffin, vacancy No. 20 will be imminent.
Then there’s the Seahawks, where perhaps Pete Carroll’s biggest trial is remembering the names of all 19 players who ran the ball at least once this season (remember George Farmer and C.J. Spiller?). He and GM John Schneider extended their contracts before the season began.
Injuries and draft busts may thin the player ranks, but the empire created by Carroll and Schneider under owner Paul Allen is uncommonly serene at the management level.
For fans new to the area or burdened with short memories, the Seahawks not long ago were among the great unwashed.
Carroll upon his 2010 hire was Seattle’s third coach in three years. He succeeded the single year of Jim Mora, who followed Mike Holmgren. Holmgren’s final year in 2008 of 4-12 came just three years after the team’s first Super Bowl.
Holmgren’s early years were fraught with disagreements with club president Bob Whitsitt. So the kinds of intrigue causing so much management tumult around the NFL are hardly unknown here. Just readily forgotten.
No one appreciates more the relative dead calm than Carroll.
“This is a very difficult business,” Carroll said Tuesday. “It’s tough and changes quickly. Sometimes, it just feels like you can’t stop it from happening, and there you go, you’re out.”
His firings from the Patriots and the Jets have scabbed over, but remain tender.
“I’ve been fired enough,” he said. “I know what that’s like. We’ve been through it for years, even (as assistants) on staffs where (head coaches) have gotten fired.
“Sometimes for coaches who have not had any other experiences, they don’t know any better. They can’t appreciate it like I do, and guys who have been through it.”
With good reason, Carroll gushed about his gig here, which made it easy to laugh off the rumors he would succeed Fisher in LA, where he was once king as USC’s coach.
“We have great support and relationships with John and people throughout the building and with the owner, Paul Allen, who is extraordinary as an owner,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for a guy who is more supportive, and more in tune. He knows what’s going on. He’s not just aloof and out of there. When he speaks, it’s meaningful.
“To coach in this environment, with the 12s and the whole thing, it’s awesome. I’m fired up every day I go to work.”
So yes, there is a playoff game Saturday against sixth-seeded Detroit (which, by the way, hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991), and the Seahawks are missing key people and a running game. Yet they’re eight-point favorites to move on to a division-round game in Atlanta. If they make it there, we’ll see what happens.
But if you get a minute when you’re not worrying about whether Lions QB Matt Stafford will beat Earl Thomas’s replacement over the top three times or four, take a look around the rest of the NFL. Five years in a row in the postseason is a thing. A fine thing.
Art Thiel is co-founder of sportspressnw.com.