The 12th man has become a notoriously fervent fan base that can effect the outcome of a football game.
The Seattle Seahawks generated a buzz with their unique NFL draft approach in 2011, focusing on fit instead of value, looking for the best players to build the foundation of the team and elevate the speed, toughness and discipline within the program.
I’m fond of the results of that first step in the offseason player acquisition process—everyone has their opinion about the draft, but let’s leave it out of focus for now.
Let's circle back to an article I posted before the draft highlighting an ESPN Football Outsiders article that put Seattle among the top five lockout-ready organization. The analysis saw Seattle among a group with “a bunker full of canned goods when the lockout struck: a balanced roster, established coaches and few needs.”
At the time I acknowledged understanding, and agreeing with, the coaching continuity aspect of their argument. Their optimism surrounding the Seahawks' ability to re-tool the roster and that Hasselbeck would indeed return to Seattle—the lockout helping his aging body and assuming Seattle would bring him back—could be viewed within a range of shades of gray.
FBO likely took merit in John Schneider’s lineage as a GM, Pete Carroll’s recent experience building a program with a defined championship mentality, and the fact that Seattle did a lot with a little from a personnel perspective in 2010.
Even with the fascinating finish in 2010, doubt remains as to whether or not Seattle is capable of successfully defending their NFC West title.
Has Much Changed in the Past Three-Plus Months?
I don’t think those inside the organization are still struggling with where that ceiling can be; the jumping-off point is the fact that they finished strong in Chicago, the buy-in-or-go-home mentality established.
Has Seattle definitively lost much since a disappointing, but shining silver ending to the season? If anything, I believe the pool of players that want to play in Seattle has gotten deeper.
The Seahawks are only one-third of the way through the offseason player acquisition process; Carroll and Schneider are not satisfied with an 8-10 record and the makeup of the 2010 roster.
No matter your personal grade of the draft, it’s clear Seattle found their guys they believe will best fit into the program and elevate its ceiling.
Yet, despite the momentous end to the 2010 season, a solid portion of the 12th man seemed to have resigned itself to enduring a losing season in 2011 well before the draft, when opinion began to move towards the Seahawks being one of the ill-equipped teams for the lockout. Carroll commended their staff for the level of competition during the one day of open business.
While the organization may not care about the opinions of others who are focused on the draft—and are fully aware that everyone has their right to an opinion about the uniquely executed process—they openly invite their fans to represent their opinions on game day and beyond.
I believe the Seahawks are...
They care about both what is produced on the field and understand the importance of a hungry 12th man, the society of Seahawks fans that have become nationally known for their fervor.
No NFL Business, No Change in Principles
The Seahawks never stopped competing. They understand games can be won off the field in the offseason. Carroll and Schneider were very confident in their entire draft process and remain confident heading forward.
I want to stay off the field and introduce Emile Durkheim’s sociological idea of the Totem.
The founder of the "science" of Sociology, most influential at the turn into the 20th century, explained the Totem as a symbol of expression. "It is a flag. It is the sign by which each clan distinguishes itself from others, a visible mark of personality and embodiment.”
The people who represent their given totem are a physical embodiment of the practices and beliefs of their group. This idea can extend to a religious group, territory, country or team.
Thus, a group of “totemic principles” drives the clan that is represented through the symbol; the totemic principles represent both a physical force and a moral power.
In theory, every NFL team has a Totem and abides by its principles; “In theory” can only go so far.
The theory of the totem needs to be implemented; just because it exists doesn’t mean it works. There needs to be a leader that inspires the effort to abide by the principles—the Seahawks struggled in the two years before Pete Carroll.
The totemic principles can only go as far as the effort, energy and leadership of the administration. A coach needs to get his players to play with energy, effort and conformity that help the team more than the individual.
Durkheim: “An individual or collective object is said to inspire respect when the conscious representation of it is endowed with such power that it automatically stimulates or inhibits behavior, regardless of any relative consideration of its practical or harmful effects. When we obey someone because of the moral authority we recognize in him…a psychic energy immanent in the idea makes individuals bend their will and incline to compliance.”
To continue the idea, “Since society can exist only in the minds of the individual and through their actions, it must penetrate and become organized inside us; it becomes an integral part of our being, and in doing so elevates us and enlarges that being.”
Now, take your attention to Saturday night of Week 17, Pete Carroll’s first pre-game speech under win or go home circumstances.
"'When we win, let’s gather at the 50 to celebrate together'. ... In uncharacteristic fashion, Carroll didn’t give a pregame or halftime speech to the team.”
The concept of the Totem is...
What happened on Sunday night? The Seahawks celebrated at the 50 on their Totem with their 12th man; everyone in the building knew this was a team effort.
Carroll in his post game presser, “The fans rocked the house, and I’m so grateful that we could give that back to them…and we get to come back here next Saturday.”
“Next Saturday” was the Seahawks and 67,000 plus, seismically strong, knocking off a New Orleans team that began as a young, unproven, unorthodox organization.
New Orleans joined forces with a shattered community in their quest for salvation, a Super Bowl title for a franchise littered with disappointment and city needing any type of hope to hold on to.
The Saints exuded totemic practices and principles that have contributed to the success of the organization—I first introduced the idea of the Totem and the exemplification of its power by New Orleans, seeing similarities between the early Saints and 2010 Seahawks, after Week 8—I declared then and maintain now that I am not saying a championship will happen in Seattle as a direct result of the Totem idea. I maintain it can be a factor.
Pete Carroll called New Orleans a “model organization with all the right stuff” before the week 11 matchup; the “who dat” nation the model for the 12th man. A 12th man that has displayed the right stuff in the stands since what was formerly known as Qwest Field opened in 2002.
Going into the 2011 offseason, the Seahawks made a clear statement about the type of energy and dedication one must have to represent their Totem going forward.
The Elevation of Seahawks Nation
“Success” from this point forward may end up only being defined as a dream for Seattle, because the Carroll and Schneider regime would be a disappointment to many if they are unable to surpass 7-9, 1-1 in the playoffs, in the remainder of their tenure.
Dreamers never stop dreaming. Carroll’s only non football job was selling roofing supplies, and Schneider was an intern for the Packers around the time he became a legal adult.
These guys are both living their dream, and with their momentous ending to 2010, Carroll’s dream-like vision for the Seahawks has changed; they’ve spent the offseason using their dream-like visions as a basis for reality.
I’d say James Carpenter and John Moffit falling to offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable is one dream-like scenario that has definitively come true this offseason for the organization.
The will to win comes from within, but there are those crucial moments where the energy of external forces tips the balance. The Seahawks are building their will to win internally and freely extend that will on Sunday’s to the 12th man; it can help, but it can also hinder.
Hopefully, the 12th man doesn’t forget their power during a time when things in the league are so uncertain that the league can be open for business and closed again within 24 hours.
As the Seahawks organization attempts to elevate itself to the next level, the 12th man should, in theory, follow in its footsteps. Not necessarily agreeing with whatever the organization decides from a personnel perspective, but understanding that Carroll, Schneider and the Seahawks embraced the 12th man's effort and energy to the fullest, completely fired up about what the fans had done for the franchise during the playoff run.
Now, with all the effort the Seahawks front office has put into improving the coaching staff and roster, it’s up to the 12th man to return the favor and celebrate at the 50.