Like any newly-erected franchise, the Seattle Seahawks spent a few of their early seasons suffering through 30-plus-point losses and resided for much of their time in the basement of their division. And though Seattle put together back-to-back 9-7 seasons in 1978 and 1979 -- the organization's third and fourth years in existence -- original coach Jack Patera couldn't sustain that momentum.
So, before the 1983 season, the Seahawks hired an already-proven leader in coach Chuck Knox -- who had taken the Los Angeles Raiders and the Bills to the postseason during his previous head-coaching stints and had actually resigned from his job in Buffalo one day (!) before taking the position in Seattle. And that's when everything changed.
Seattle won nine games, sneaked into the playoffs and then upset the Dolphins in the second round of the postseason to earn a spot in the AFC title game.
Though the Seahawks couldn't beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders, that run of success set up Seattle for what would be its most-successful season of the franchise's first 29. That would be the 1984 Seahawks, who put together a fantastic season exactly 30 years before Seattle opens its 2014 season Thursday vs. the Packers.
"We had an expectation of winning ... ," quarterback Jim Zorn told the Seattle Times in 2005. "... I think that team was tremendous and we stuck together as a football team. There was a lot of encouragement on that team in 1984 ... Winning does that."
As great as the 1983 season had been -- and considering Seattle had made the postseason for the first time in its history, that year was pretty great -- the 1984 season was poised to be a special one. Yet despite the success of 1983, the Seahawks were entering into major changes at the beginning of the 1984 season.
Running back Curt Warner -- the second-most successful Warner named either Curt or Kurt in league history who had rushed for an AFC-best 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie the season before -- injured his knee in Week 1 and was lost for the season. Zorn -- who went on to coach the Redskins and who had started at least eight games per year his entire career before 1984 -- lost his starting job to fifth-year veteran Dave Krieg.
Knox joked he would turn the offense colloquially known as "Ground Chuck" for its emphasis on the running game into a passing attack he would call "Air Knox," and that's pretty much what happened. Though the Seahawks signed a past-his-prime Franco Harris as a fullback, Krieg was the offensive stalwart, earning the first of his three career Pro Bowls that year by throwing for 3,671 yards and 32 touchdowns -- both career high-water marks -- against a league-high 24 interceptions.
"Chuck never really came up and said, ‘Hey, we're going to put this one you,'" Krieg told the team website in 2011. “But, as most of the time with Chuck, his actions spoke louder than his words. So it was (offensive coordinator) Steve Moore and (QB coach) Kenny Meyer who kind of said, ‘We're going to have to rely on you a lot more this year than what we thought we were going to.'
“Then we started going three receivers and four receivers. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to handle it. But then it wasn't necessarily me as much as it was the wide receivers and the running backs making plays after they caught the ball.”
Much of the credit for that must go to Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who caught 74 passes for 1,184 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns, while tight end Mike Tice, now working as the Falcons offensive line coach, also made important contributions.
The defense also was impressive, as safety Kenny Easley recorded 10 of the team's 38 interceptions (including seven that went for touchdown returns) and the Seahawks recovered 25 fumbles. In all, seven Seahawks made the Pro Bowl that season. It was a team overflowing with talent.
With only two games to play in the regular season, the team was 12-2 and were in control of landing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But a defense that had already posted three shutouts earlier in the season allowed 34 points to the Chiefs and 31 points to the Broncos in back-to-back weeks, and after beating the Raiders in the first round of the postseason, Seattle had to travel to face the Dolphins for the right to return to the AFC title game.
This is what happened.
And that was that. Though Knox signed a new contract a month later, the Seahawks only won double-digit games once in the next 18 seasons and they went a full 21 years without a playoff victory.
As you know, the Seahawks finally won their first Super Bowl last season, but that 1984 team was a special one in franchise history, recording the team's best record until the 2005 Super Bowl runner-ups went 13-3.
"[The 1984 team] is a great season to talk about, because you're not talking about the stars getting it done,” Krieg said in 2011. “You're talking about other guys who stepped up and contributed when we really needed them. That's what really prompted everything, was all the guys who came to the forefront.”