Seahawks.com hands out its honors from the team’s 11-5 regular season and split of two games in the postseason:
MVP: Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. How can pick one over the other? How can you pick one or the other? We couldn’t, so the Beast Mode running back and steady-as-he-throws rookie QB share the honor, just as they shared the workload. There’s an entire story’s worth of thought process that went into this decision.
Best offensive player: Max Unger. It could go to Lynch or Wilson, obviously. But this is a share-the-credit selection, since both Lynch and Wilson were always quick to credit the line for its part their accomplishments. Unger, in his second season as the starting center, anchored that line and was voted All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. “He’s right all the time,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “I think to do this the consistency thing comes into play here. You’ve got to do it running the ball and protecting your quarterback down after down, and Max has done that.”
Best defensive player: Richard Sherman. Only strong safety Kam Chancellor (.975) and free safety Earl Thomas (.958) played a higher percentage of snaps than Sherman (.948), but no one made more plays than the second-year cornerback. He led the team, and tied for second in the NFL, with eight interceptions. He also had 24 passes defensed, almost three times as many as Thomas (nine), who finished second on the team. Somehow snubbed when it came to voting for the Pro Bowl, Sherman was selected to the All-Pro team. If enough people were paying attention, he also should get some consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year – an award that is expected to be a slam-dunk for the Texans’ J.J. Watt. And Sherman saved one of his best efforts for the biggest stage – Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons. “I thought he had a fantastic football game,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They went after him. They challenged him. And I thought he was incredible.”
Best special teams player: Heath Farwell. Again, this was not an easy choice. And asking special teams coordinator Brian Schneider for help didn’t help at all, because so many of his players made special contributions. From Jon Ryan, who broke his own club record for net average (40.8) and was among the league leaders with 30 punts downed inside the 20; to kicker Steven Hauschka, who was 23 of 23 from inside the 50; to Leon Washington, who was voted to the Pro Bowl and returned the eighth kickoff of his career for a TD to tie the NFL record; to Michael Robinson, who was second to Farwell in coverage tackles (10); to Malcolm Smith, who scored off a muffed punt return and blocked a punt that was returned for a score. But for Schneider, it was all about the consistency with his units and no one was more consistent than Farwell, who had 15 coverage tackles to go with the league-high 21 he produced last season.
Offensive rookie of the year: Wilson, for all the obvious reasons and even more that weren’t that obvious.
Defensive rookie of the year: Bobby Wagner. While first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin led all NFL rookies with eight sacks, Wagner led the team, and finished second among all rookies in the league, with 140 tackles during the regular season and 17 during the postseason. The second-round draft choice also produced four interceptions and two sacks from his middle linebacker spot. The best part of everything that Wagner did? His attitude. “I’m the middle linebacker,” he said. “I’m supposed to make a lot of tackles.”
Free-agent addition of the year: Zach Miller. Yes, he was signed in free agency the previous year. But his contributions this season came much closer to displaying just how versatile – and good – a tight end Miller is. He’s a rock-solid blocker and also finished third on the team with 38receptions and tied for second with three TD catches. But it was Miller’s over-the-top efforts against the Falcons that forced the turn-back-the-clock tweak in this category: eight catches for 142 yards. All after he tore the plantar fascia in his left foot on the Seahawks’ first possession. “Zach had a terrific season for us,” Carroll said. “But in this game, when he had the opportunities, boy, he cashed in on all of them.”
Chris Gray Award: Paul McQuistan. Who better to win this than this generation’s Chris Gray? Gray was a warrior of a lineman who started a club-record 121 consecutive games from 1999-2006, after being signed to fill a backup role. That’s the same path McQuistan has followed. Signed to a future contract in January of 2011, he started a career-high 10 games last season and 16 this season – nine at right guard and seven at left guard, where he also started both postseason games. “He’s kind of our glue, that’s the way I look at him,” Cable said. “Paul has been so valuable. He has played multiple positions the last two years. He never misses a beat. It’s just that his wisdom and experience are so valuable for those young guys in there. So he truly has been the glue in that room, without a doubt.”
Best trend: Going 8-0 at home. This season’s team did it, joining the 2003 and 2005 teams as the only ones in franchise history to do it. Along the way, the Seahawks dispatched the Packers and Patriots, who went on to win their divisions, as well as the playoff-bound Vikings. They also avenged road losses to each of their NFC West rivals – beating the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals by a combined 94 points in the final month of the regular season after losing to them by a combined 17 points in the first seven weeks of the season. Think how different things might have turned out if the Seahawks had been able to play at CenturyLink Field in the postseason. Carroll has. “That’s why you own your division, so you can be positioned to play at home,” he said. “That’s what’s at hand, that’s the goal of this program – it’s to win the division so that you can start the playoffs where you want to, and try to keep it there.”
Worst trend: The inability to hold fourth-quarter leads. As well as the defense played – and that was ranked-No. 4-in-the NFL well – it allowed the Lions, Dolphins and finally Falcons to drive to game-winning scores after the Seahawks taken fourth-quarter leads. The Bears tied the score at the end of regulation, but the offense won that game in overtime. Win a couple of those other games and the Seahawks would have captured the division and opened the postseason at home. “That’s an issue, just finishing it off on that last drive,” Carroll said. “There are four games sitting right there. That’s a big-time season. But I’m not worried about figuring that out. It’s just a snap here or there. But it happened this year and you can’t ignore that.”
Best quote: This one is actually a remark incumbent starter, and since traded, Tarvaris Jackson made last spring – way before the fact, and way before Wilson became the talk of the NFL: “Russell, he’s not like a regular rookie.”