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Great or terrible win? Depends on who you ask

By Mike Salk

The Seahawks just did the impossible. They beat an excellent Ravens team that was heavily favored and was coming off an impressive win in Pittsburgh.

So why am I so conflicted?

This was one of those days that sent my mind spiraling off in a thousand different directions at once. The problem with this day is that different people will see it from so many different angles.

Tarvaris Jackson was 17 of 27 for 217 yards and committed no turnovers. (AP)

The optimist

The optimist is psyched today! He is happy that they beat a good team. He is happy that their special teams units finally became a weapon instead of a detriment. He is happy that Tarvaris Jackson played mistake-free football.

He recognizes that all six of this team’s losses are explainable. Remember, the special teams cost them a win against what is now a dominant San Francisco team. They didn’t have Sidney Rice against Pittsburgh. Tarvaris Jackson missed the Cleveland game, didn’t start against Cincinnati and was still hurting in Dallas.

The optimist says that the Seahawks are finally executing the style of offense that they were built to play. Pete Carroll wants a physical running game that controls the football and leads to big plays in play-action. Marshawn Lynch was a force against the Ravens and that offensive line showed that they are capable of mauling a great defensive line. With the game on the line, the five up front neutralized Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs by constantly driving them off the line.

Carroll said after the game that assistant head coach Tom Cable spoke to the team two weeks ago and demanded that they improve. Their effort against the Ravens seemed to indicate that the message was received.

The optimist is bummed about the team’s losing record but is encouraged by the fight left in the players. They are impressed that no one has quit and there have been exactly zero examples of players complaining about their role after any of the losses. The team has stayed together and fought hard against a potential playoff team when they could have easily shut it down.

The pessimist

The pessimist has two major problems today.

First, he was unimpressed with the Seahawks’ win today and credits the Ravens with the loss. He points to the two foolish turnovers from kick returner David Reed as the definitive plays of this game. After all, those two fumbles led to six points directly, no small factor in a game decided by five points!

Not only that, but the second fumble cost the Ravens 59 valuable seconds on their final drive of the first half, which ended just outside of field goal range as Billy Cundiff missed from 52 yards out.

Second, the pessimist is furious that the Seahawks wasted opportunities the past few weeks. Sure, it’s nice to beat a good opponent, but the playoffs are already out of reach. If the Hawks could have just beaten the Browns, they’d be 4-5 and a respectable record would be in their future. If they could have won any of the other games, they could be over .500.

How frustrating that fourth-quarter mistakes cost them so many opportunities!

In fact, the pessimist is furious about number of mistakes the Seahawks made even in a win. “Thirteen penalties,” he shouts. “THIRTEEN!” Once again, they were forced to call needless timeouts because of difficulty substituting, no small problem a week after giving up a huge play with only 10 players on the field.

This team is undisciplined, and while the optimist chalks it up to youth, the pessimist believes that is a byproduct of Carroll’s player’s-coach style.

The short-term thinker

The short-term thinker is pumped up right now. He doesn’t care where the Seahawks pick in the draft because he believes that you have to win every game, no matter where your team is in the standings.

I took an informal Twitter poll at halftime of this game and asked: “You’ve seen the Seahawks can play with the Ravens at home. Now, do you want them to win the game?”

Roughly 65 percent wanted the team to win. Here are some of their thoughts:

•@Schuhman (and many others) asked: “how does a real fan want their team to lose?”
• @Ikesanity said: “will never root against a hometown team. There are never any guarantees.”
• @SeahawkSammy offered: “I just feel that a culture of losing can be a hard thing to shake free from”

The short-term thinker falls into two categories. One roots for his team game by game, rather than season by season. He thinks fans that want the team to lose are not truly fans and that they are suggesting the team throw games. The other is actually skeptical of the draft process and has been burned too many times by the Rick Mirer’s of the world. Regardless, he thinks every game is worth winning.

The long-term thinker

Finally, the long-term thinker is disgusted today.

He spent Sunday morning rooting for the Dolphins, Colts, Rams and Cardinals to win because he wants the highest draft pick possible for the Seahawks. While he understands that Andrew Luck is probably not in the cards, he wants to be able to choose between Matt Barkley and Landry Jones. He wants to have the most valuable trade chip just in case Indy wants to make a deal for that top pick.

He was very hopeful after Miami, St. Louis and Arizona won. He saw the Seahawks as one of just six teams left with fewer than three wins. Of those six teams, the Vikings, Rams, Cardinals and Panthers are unlikely to take a quarterback. In short, the Seahawks looked to be in great position to get the second best quarterback in this draft.

He doesn’t necessarily think that the team should lose games on purpose, but he hopes they lose anyway. Essentially, he is willing for them to sacrifice short-term for the most important thing in sports: a franchise quarterback. He knows that there are no guarantees in the draft, but he is bullish on the Carroll/John Schneider regime’s talent evaluation and wants it to be in the best position to draft the player it likes the most. He sees a win to get to 3-6 as empty because he wants wins to get to 6-3.

So, where are you? Are you an optimistic short-term thinker? A pessimistic long-term thinker? Or some other combination?

Personally, I find myself rotating amongst all four points of view. I spent the morning rooting for the lowly teams in the league and I see great merit in losing games once you have proven that you can play with the big boys.

But I also think the Seahawks may have turned an important corner by beating the Ravens by running right at them. I was impressed with Jackson, Lynch, Richard Sherman and the entire offensive line but I was bothered by the 13 penalties. I thought the Ravens gave the Seahawks uncommon chances but I liked the way the Hawks took advantage of those opportunities.

Ah, football. Where every win simply leads to more conversation.

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