Last night was the ESPY Awards (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards), an annual ceremony in which ESPN gives out awards and recognition for athletic achievement – whether it be individual or team – for the past calendar year. For those of you who are a fan of awards shows, it’s essentially “The Oscars of Sports.”
And boy was it an excellent night for our beloved Seahawks. Earlier in the night, Richard Sherman won “Best Breakthrough Athlete.” This honor goes to an athlete that made the best or most significant breakthrough in his or her sport in a given year. He won the award over New York Yankees rookie Masahiro Tanaka, Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles, and Portland Blazers PG Damian Lillard. Sherm is coming off his best year yet, and the former 5th-round draft pick stole the headlines of the NFC Championship Game after his “Immaculate Deflection” (pictured above) sealed the Seahawks win over our rival 49ers.
Drake, who hosted the show, poked fun at the All-Pro CB in his opening monologue, “Tonight a man told me that Richard Sherman is the best defensive player he’s ever seen. And that man’s name is Richard Sherman.” There is no doubt that Sherman is cocky, a bit arrogant, and supremely confident. But if it’s that confidence and that attitude that has gotten him this far over the past 2 1/2 seasons (believe it or not, last year was only his third year in the league), I’m all for it.
While Sherman won the only individual award of the night for the Seahawks (Russell Wilson was a finalist for “Best NFL Player” and Pete Carroll was a finalist for “Best Coach/Manager), the team won the highest honor of the show. During The Oscars, all the viewers stay tuned until they end because they know what the last award is – Best Picture. Similarly, the “Best Team” award is the one that everyone looks forward to at the very end of the ceremony. The Super Bowl XLIII champion Seahawks (the first in franchise history) triumphed over the other major champions in each sport the past year – the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the Stanley Cup champion LA Kings, NCAA Football champion Florida State, and NCAA women’s basketball champion UConn.
While the Seahawks Super Bowl run captured the hearts of many and is largely seen as the best team in the world this past year, these guys aren’t done. In fact, I expect that they could even be better next year. Here are the three main reasons why:
We Are Young
The Seahawks had an average roster age of 26.4 years when they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Februrary, the youngest Super Bowl winning team ever. They are even younger going into training camp this year – 24.9 years. One sign of a great dynasty is youth in the roster, and head coach Pete Carroll has a ton of it. This comes from Carroll and GM John Schneider‘s ability to draft so well and install a system based on always competing. While it will be important to keep the core players of the current team, having this system intact allows for some leeway, meaning the team can afford to lose a few players because there is always a “next guy up.” Remember, Richard Sherman was a “next guy up” just two years ago, and he is anything but that now.
We Have a Guy Named Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson has won the most games in his first two seasons than any other QB in the Super Bowl era. The guy oozes everything that you want in a signal-caller, including confidence, a student-of-the-game mentality, work ethic, leadership, resiliency, a strong arm, accuracy, etc. More than that, though, Wilson is a winner – a cheap winner. Russell is the lowest paid QB on the team because of the way rookie contracts work nowadays. Once he is eligible to renegotiate is contract after next season, he will be getting a hefty pay-day from the Seahawks. With a Super Bowl win under his belt in only his second year, we can only expect that he will win more and continue to grow as a player because of his work ethic.
Competition at Wide Receiver
I mentioned earlier how Pete Carroll has instilled an “always compete” mentality throughout the Seahawks organization. This has stood out in the DB’s mostly in Carroll’s first four years as the head coach. Through competition, our secondary has easily been the deepest in the league. When (former) starting CB Brandon Browner went down with an injury last year, Byron Maxwell stepped in and even outplayed Browner on his way to taking his job. Richard Sherman did the same thing two years ago. Every guy in that secondary always competes as hard as they can because they know if they don’t, there will be another guy waiting to take his job. This is what has made “L.O.B.” the best secondary in the league.
Now that competitive nature has found its way to the wide receivers, largely considered a weakness of the Seahawks in years past. Seattle’s run-first offense has typically left the wide receiver position to be overlooked by many analysts. This year could be different. Going into training camp, the Seahawks have 13 WR’s battling for 6 – maybe 7 – spots on the opening day roster. The group includes the returning group of Percy Harvin, who showed during the Super Bowl how dangerous our offense can be, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Sidney Rice (who could be primed for comeback year), Ricardo Lockette, and Bryan Walters along with rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, who have impressed in off-season workouts. That means that one or possibly two of the returners likely won’t be with the team when they open the season at CenturyLink Field against the Green Bay Packers in 49 days. This competition at WR will last throughout training camp, and maybe it will be this competition that finally helps this group reach the next level. Stretching the field with this group will make this offense more potent and consistent, something the Hawks have struggled with at times. Add that to the stellar defense and this team is even better in 2014.
As you can see, these Seahawks aren’t done yet. These guys are hungry. They want to defend their first title even more than they wanted it.
The ESPYS were no doubt a special night for the Seahawks, as the two awards they won were the first two in franchise history. I would expect they won’t be the last.