A tale of two 10-win Seattle teams

1986 Krieg and Largent
Dave Krieg & Steve Largent during a 1986 game (Seahawks.com)

As stunning as it still is to consider, this is the best all-around team in the history of the Seattle Seahawks. That’s odd to say about a 10-win team — and it would be odder yet if this team had not made the playoffs.

Thirty years ago, it wouldn’t have. Thirty years ago, in fact, a red-hot 10-6 Seahawks team did not make the postseason.

These Seahawks, who have won six of seven and have averaged 32 points over the past eight games, are the team no one wants to play in the playoffs (even if Arizona GM Steve Keim says he does).

Just like in 1986, when the Seahawks were similarly hot — five straight wins to end the season, averaging 33.4 points. Fortunately for the AFC playoff field that year, no one had to face the Hawks, who were aced out by the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs (both also 10-6) for the wild-card positions. The Cincinnati Bengals also did not make it despite a 10-6 finish — a fairly common occurrence back in the days of five playoff teams in each conference (there were just three divisions in each 14-team conference back then).

Even today, 10 wins occasionally are not enough to make the playoffs. About every other year, a 10-6 team is left out (e.g., Philadelphia in 2014, Chicago in 2012, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay in 2010, 11-win New England in 2008).

But these Seahawks are lucky the NFC is pretty weak after the top three teams (Carolina, Arizona and Seattle), and they managed to dig out of a 4-5 hole to reach 10 wins, which was plenty for them to get in.

Like these Seahawks, the 1986 club found itself stumbling along at midseason, languishing with the league’s .500 squads. The Hawks actually started strong (5-2), but the offense went into a funk during a four-game losing streak that dropped them to 5-6.

1986 Paul Moyer
Paul Moyer in 1986 (Seahawks.com)

As former Seattle safety Paul Moyer told it in our book, “Then Zorn Said to Largent,” the Seahawks bottomed out with a 34-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We’d just gotten the crap kicked out of us. And, on top of that, people wanted to kill us,” he said. “At the airport in Cincinnati, we were sitting on the plane ready to go, and all of a sudden we got a bomb threat. We ended up having to wait in the hangar, cold and tired and hungry. … We were freezing our butts off. It was comical at that point, and we just said, ‘Well, it can’t get any worse than this.'”

The Hawks snapped out of it and suddenly turned into the best team in the league by the end (they beat both eventual Super Bowl teams), but it was too little too late.

“We were the hottest team in the NFL, and no one wanted to play us,” Moyer said. “A lot of fans still say that was our best team of that era and, if we had made the playoffs, we would have won the Super Bowl.”

Now, 30 years later, the Seahawks are again 10-6, statistically the best team of this Seattle era (and in franchise history) and the team no one wants to play. But this time they are in the playoffs, and a lot of fans (us included) think they will win the Super Bowl.


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