Super Bowl XLIX turned out to be one of the best in recent memory as Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots came away with their fourth championship in this era.
For the Seattle Seahawks, the decision to run a pick-slant combination which sealed their fate instead of pounding it in with Marshawn Lynch will be one that they think about for a long time in the great Northwest.
It raises many questions.
It especially raises these questions due to the type of team Seattle is. Perhaps no other team in the NFL stays as true to who they are (running game and defense), yet they didn't run it in from the one-yard line when all of America thought they would.
It'll be one long offseason for Pete Carroll's gang. One gigantic reason it'll be a long spring and summer is due to the guarantee that this roster as we know it will be slowly disassembled. It happens so very often.
We see teams in the league rapidly climb their way to the top. They become dynasties or mini-dynasties as everybody revels in how a team could be assembled with so much talent. A lot of it is due to smarts in the front office and a lot of it turns out to be luck of the draw. For the Seahawks, it was both.
Think about this: they lost their nickel-back in Jeremy Lane, one-half of their pass rush in Cliff Avril, and had three-fourths of the Legion of Doom seriously injured in the game and they still should have won the game.
However, in this salary-capped, money-grubbing world, we all know the chances of these guys staying together and sustaining a long-term level of success are remote.
Perhaps a year from now when we look back at this Super Bowl, we'll all be agreeing that the Seahawks squandered their last opportunity to win a championship. Winning back-to-back titles is not easy, especially considering how hard it's going to be to keep this squad together.
While of course they'll still win their fair share of games, their short window of dominance has now slammed shut in their faces.
Here are three reasons Super Bowl XLIX was the last time we'll see these Seattle Seahawks as we know them.
1. Russell Wilson getting paid, salary cap
There's no doubt about it, Russell Wilson will be hitting his long-awaited pay day very soon.
It was difficult decades ago to keep championship teams together. The early 1990's Dallas Cowboys can attest to this. The reality is that once they start regularly playing in primetime, everybody wants to get "theirs." Throw in a hard salary cap and keeping a talented group together is almost impossible.
Only if you have one of the best of all time playing the quarterback position and running your franchise can you sustain success through a decade or longer, (see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick).
Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas have all gotten paid already. These three guys currently represent nearly $25 million in cap hits right there alone and are going nowhere. Youngsters who were drafted with value in mind such as Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Jermaine Kearse and especially Wilson are still playing at high levels on their rookie contracts.
It's simple yet devastating: Wilson and Wagner will cost a fortune and considering they're already up against the cap, this roster will be turned around significantly in 2015 and beyond.
Wilson will be entering the final year of his rookie contract where the cap hit is a ridiculously low $817,302. The fact that they could get such value from the quarterback position allowed them to pay every other position around him.
Once they re-sign Wilson, rumored to be in the $20 million per year range, they'll join the rest of the good teams in this league, suffering with the fact that they have to pay their star quarterback big dollars.
2. Marshawn Lynch is 28
Prior to the Super Bowl starting, we found out there was already talk of a Marshawn Lynch long-term contract being worked on by the Lynch camp and general manager John Schneider.
There's one little problem though: Lynch is already 28 years old which represents about 36 in running back years.
If there's been one position that's devalued more than any other in this league over the last 20 years, it's the running back. Through rule changes favoring the passing game, spread offenses taking advantage of space and the mobile quarterback, and the nature of realizing the position can be better served as a common item, the featured back is all but dead in the NFL.
Lynch is no doubt still a feature back. He finished fourth in the league with 1,306 rushing yards. While there's little doubt he can still do it for another one to two years, the question of how long is a legitimate one.
More concerning to Lynch's case is the fact that he's not a normal back. He takes and delivers more punishment than perhaps any other player we've seen in the last two decades. His shelf-life is more likely to be shorter than even a regular back.
Re-doing his contract to make him happy will also hinder the salary cap.
If Seattle wants to keep some of their depth in key spots, it might be wise to say good-bye to "Beast Mode" right now.
Not only has this team won with the most talented group in the league the past three seasons, but they've won in a way we haven't seen in a long time. They do it in a way that's brash, in your face and never dull.
Confidence is as much a coaching point for them as any simple fundamental football teaching point is. They believe in themselves and have come through in literally every big game situation the past two seasons.
This past Sunday night finally represented the one time they didn't come through, and shock was visibly present among the sidelines. Even a brawl broke out due to frustrations once the result was no longer in doubt.
When the confident and even cocky strategy works, everything is wonderful. Guys are dancing, laughing and having one hell of a time while winning. Throughout history though, when a group like this suffers its first setback, it sometimes falls off the rails very quickly. That cocky and confident attitude sometimes backfires when things are trending downward.
As good as it gets, as we witnessed in the NFC Championship Game, is never as drastic as bad as it can be.
Seattle will curse the day they outsmarted themselves and threw the ball on the one-yard line. Lynch was still in his prime, the team was still together, and cap problems were still a few months away.
Now, the real drama starts for Carroll, Schneider and the rest of the Seahawks. How will they respond? Does this group truly believe in itself? Or was it an unbelievable core group of valued draft picks who came together at the right time?
The world will find out in 2015 if they're front-runners or not.
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