EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The confetti had barely finished falling to the MetLife Stadium floor by the time members of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks shifted their attention to next season.
“We’ve accomplished one goal, but if you want to be the best of the best, you gotta do it multiple times,” receiver Doug Baldwin said after his team’s 43-8 demolition of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday night. “So we’ve already set it, we’re going to win this one, and then what’s next is winning another one.”
Seemingly every ingredient needed for a team to make a prolonged run at multiple Super Bowl titles in in place in Seattle. Among those main ingredients are:
• An emerging star quarterback. Russell Wilson will enter his third season in the NFL with a record of 27-9, including the playoffs. In two years, he is 509 of 800 (63.6 completion percentage), 6,475 yards, 52 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, a 100.6 passer rating and 8.09 yards per attempt.
Over the same time frame, none other than New England’s Tom Brady has gone 781 for 1,265, 61.7 completion percentage, 9,170 yards, 59 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 93.0 passer rating and 7.25 yards per attempt.
• A loaded roster in other places. The Seahawks put six players in the Pro Bowl (although they couldn’t participate because of the Super Bowl): Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, center Max Unger and three members of the “Legion of Boom” secondary: cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
That secondary group has the lofty goal of being the best of all time. Doubt them, if you will, at your own peril.
The Seahawks gave up the fewest passing yards (172) per game this season, and forced the most turnovers (39) while also leading the NFL in points and yards allowed. That’s the first time a team has done that since the Minnesota Vikings in the year of the AFL-NFL merger (1970).
The “Legion” is fast and physical. That was apparent on Denver’s first offensive play (following the safety on the first snap of the game) when Chancellor laid out receiver Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route.
“That’s what we do best: run and hit,” Sherman said. “A great defense plays like that. We’re going to hit you and hit you and hit you until we can’t hit you no more.”
• A “recruiting” edge. Pete Carroll is the ultimate player’s coach. He’s got a background in the college game, of course, but seems to genuinely believe keeping his players happy will help the results on the field.
It’s hard to argue after Sunday.
Last season, the Seahawks signed defensive end Michael Bennett to a one-year, $4.8 million contract. He produced 8.5 sacks.
Fellow defensive end Cliff Avril signed a back-loaded, team-friendly two-year deal. He had eight sacks, and could have been the MVP of Sunday’s game.
Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel played on a one-year contract worth $890,000. He started 15 games with 53 tackles and two sacks.
Because they rotate so much in the defensive front seven, their individual numbers might be down, but the team’s production is way up.
“They sacrificed that for our team, and we appreciate that,” Sherman said. “Mike Bennett came here and took less than what he could have got other places to win a championship. Cliff Avril did the same, Tony McDaniel did the same, and we’re glad that we could give those guys a championship.”
While money is usually the motivating factor for free agents, playing for the defending Super Bowl champions under a coach like Carroll is an attractive carrot the Seahawks can hang from the stick.
• The benefit of rookie deals. Wilson’s contract is highway robbery. He’ll be paid just north of $660,000 next season. Even if they wanted to tear up his deal and give him a new one, the team can’t do so until next season, because the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement states that drafted rookies can’t renegotiate their contracts until after their third season.
Sherman is also heading into the final season of his rookie deal, which will pay him $1.4 million, as is Thomas, who will make $4.725 million.
“The first meeting that we’ll have will be tomorrow,” Carroll said at his Monday morning news conference before the Seahawks headed home. “Our guys would be surprised if we didn’t. We really have an eye on what’s coming, and that we don’t dwell on what just happened.
“Everybody will enjoy the heck out of it. We won’t miss the fun part of it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t set our sights on how this is going to go.”
Bennett, McDaniel, Baldwin, receiver Golden Tate and kicker Steven Hauschka are among the key impending free agents for the Seahawks.
“John Schneider has done an extraordinary job of structuring this roster contractually and with the vision of looking ahead so that we can keep our guys together,” Carroll said, referring to the team’s general manager.
• Youth. The Seahawks were the second-youngest team in a Super Bowl, and started the 2013 season as the fourth-youngest team overall and youngest offense in the league.
• Fan support. The Seahawks took every opportunity during Super Bowl week to talk up how much their “12th man” provided a boost in every home game.
• The Percy Harvin factor. The dynamic wide receiver played in just three games this season because of offseason hip surgery and a concussion, but he showed in the Super Bowl how explosive he can be when he took the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
Harvin had 137 all-purpose yards on four touches against the Broncos. He should be 100 percent next year. That was already on his mind Sunday night.
“Next year, we’ll do it just like we did this year,” he said. “This team, we’re so competitive, our practices, we won’t let each other come out there and have slouches. … We compete all the time in everything.”