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Seahawks, Patriots and the Building of a Winning NFL Franchise

It's Super Bowl Sunday and tonight, either the Seahawks will win their second Second Super Bowl in a row, or the Patriots will claim their fourth Lombardi trophy. Here's how they've been building towards greatness for years.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl XLIX is almost here and tonight either Seattle will be the first back-to-back champion since New England in 2003-2004, or the Patriots and the combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will hoist their fourth Lombardi trophy.

What is remarkable about this game today is that it truly features the two teams that played the best football throughout the 2014 season. There is no fluke in the Seahawks and the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl, it is what most expected.

Maybe even more compelling is the fact this will likely be the most watched Super Bowl ever for the simple reason that both franchises are bitterly despised outside of Seattle and the New England area. The Patriots because of their propensity to bending every single rule in the book in order to gain an edge on the field, the Seahawks because of their brash, in-your-face trash-talking stars like Richard Sherman and their constant "Us Against the World," "Nobody Gives Us Respect" rants.

Truthfully, these franchises are hated by most National Football League fans because of one simple thing: they win. And they keep winning. For the Seahawks, the revival started in 2010 when Pete Carroll took a 7-9 team into the NFC divisional round of the playoffs and for the Patriots, it started with an injury to then-starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe back in 2001.

How have they done it? Is there a secret recipe to not only getting to the top but staying there? For the sake of relative brevity, I decided to examine three important factors in this piece: 1) Head Coach. 2) Quarterback. 3) Draft. Most successful NFL teams are pretty good in one or two of those three categories. To sustain a high level winning culture, a franchise has to excel at all three. Let's take a look at how they scale their fish in the Pacific Northwest and how they cook their clam chowder in the Greater Boston area.


PATRIOTS: You Need a Stern, No-nonsense Head Coach to Win.

If you're in the Patriots locker room after a win, you may have seen Bill Belichick smirk...maybe. The Pats culture under "The Hoodie" has been one of discipline. No unnecessary talk to the media, company lines and clichés only. Any dissenter will be severely reprimanded, sat down and maybe traded. Since 2012, the Patriots are 36-12. They have won the AFC East each time, played in two AFC Championship games and are now playing in the Super Bowl. This will be their sixth Super Bowl appearance under Bill Belichick.

SEAHAWKS: Eh, Maybe You Don't Need to be That Tight, Man.

Well, if Bill Belichick is all tight lips and squeezed sphincters, Pete Carroll is the absolute opposite. Oh, Carroll is demanding too, make no mistake about it. But Carroll famously shoots hoops and free throws with his players before every practice, plays loud music during practices, not just before road games to get used to the noise, but just to keep everyone loose. He lets his players say pretty much whatever they want to the media (or not, when it comes to Marshawn Lynch). Carroll is the proverbial "players coach" and yet he finds a way to instill the desire to go all-out on every play into his players. Since 2012, the Seahawks have the same 36-12 record as the Patriots. They have won two consecutive NFC Championship games and could have played in three in a row weren't it for a late Matt Ryan field goal drive in the divisional round of the playoffs in Atlanta in 2012. They won the Super Bowl last year and are looking to be the first repeat champ since 2004. Not too shabby.



PATRIOTS: Just Give the (Properly Inflated) Ball to Captain America.

Tom Brady doesn't need any introduction. At age 37, the Patriots quarterback has already won three Super Bowl rings and is looking to join Terry Bradshaw and the legend Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four rings in their career. This past year, Brady stated that he felt he could play until the age of 45. In 2014 at the very least, his numbers showed he still had some gas left in the tank: Brady was ranked 6th in the NFL by Football Outsiders' DYAR (1.173), 5th in QBR (74.3) and he was also 5th in the NFL in traditional quarterback rating (97.4). Although is yards per attempts was only 18th in the NFL (7.06) he threw the 4th least amount of interceptions (9) vs. 34 touchdowns (5th in the NFL). Needless to say that Brady is still elite and will play a huge factor if the Patriots are going to defeat the Seahawks today.

SEAHAWKS: It's Not About Size, It's How You Use It.

Russell Wilson is listed at 5'11" and 206 lbs. Most pundits that have stood next to him aren't so sure that he is even 5'10" tall and yet in crunch time, he plays like he's 6'7" with no regards for the feelings of the 11 defensive dwarves trying to bring him down. Wilson gets a bad rap not only because of his size (or lack thereof) but mostly because of how much less throwing he does only (452 attempts this year, ranked 32nd in a league). On top of that, Wilson is assisted by an absolutely outstanding defense and a great running game (both ranked 1st in the NFL). However, the Seahawks third-year quarterback is no slouch. Wilson was 10th in the NFL in QB Rating (95.0) and threw only seven interceptions this year. True, his numbers are pedestrian when it comes to DYAR (456, 14th in the NFL) and in QBR (62.5, 14th in the NFL). Yet, more often than not, when it matters, Russell Wilson always seems to step up and make the right play at the right time to get his team out of trouble. Just ask the Green Bay Packers. On second thought, don't ask them, the wound is probably still too fresh.



PATRIOTS: The Draft Masters.

In New England, Bill Belichick has become famous for accumulating picks by trading down, early and often. How has he done with all those draft picks? I decided to look at the five most important offensive players and the five most important defensive players (in my opinion) including a wild card player on each side of the ball see how many of them were actually drafted by the team.


Tom Brady, QB: 6th round pick (199) in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski, TE: 2nd round pick (42) in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Julian Edelman, WR: 7th round pick (232) in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Bryan Stork, C: 4th round pick (105) in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Nate Solder, LT: 1st round pick (17) in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Wild Card: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Undrafted Free Agent in 2010.

Of the six players I consider to be the most important on offense for the Pats today, five of them were drafted by New England. My choice of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski needn't be explained. Julian Edelman has been one of Brady's most consistent outside threat; he is also a very dangerous returner. Rookie center Bryan Stork is obviously extremely important not only as the guy who snaps the ball to Brady all game long, but also one that'll have to make sure that Brady can step up in the pocket and have time to throw. Solder, as the main protector of Brady's blindside, will be crucial to try and keep Seattle's pass rush at bay. Finally, Blount will be important in the running game for the Pats to stay balanced and keep Seattle's defense honest.


Vince Wilfork, DT: 1st round pick (21) in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Jamie Collins, LB: 2nd round pick (52) in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Darrelle Revis, CB: 1st round pick (14) in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Jets.

Rob Ninkovich, DE: 5th round pick (135) in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Saints.

Dont'a Hightower, LB: 1st round pick (25) in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Wild Card: Patrick Chung, S, 2nd round pick (34) in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Patriots.

Of the six players I consider to be the most important on defense for the Pats today, four were drafted by New England. The importance of Wilfork cannot be understated, as the Patriots will have to be able slow down the Seahawks' running game and Marshawn Lynch. Collins might have the unenviable task of spying on Russell Wilson when Seattle runs the read-option, while Ninkovich's job will be to get ahold of Wilson and take him to the ground. Hightower will anchor New England's linebacking corps with the goal of limiting Lynch's runs to medium gains. Finally, Chung will have to stay alert at his safety position as he'll likely be the target of one or two deep throws from Wilson, one of the better deep ball passers in the NFL.

Overall, of the 12 most important players for the Pats today, nine are "homegrown."


SEAHAWKS: The Draft Masters, Part II

Since setting up shop in Seattle, the duo of Pete Carroll and John Schneider has done an amazing job at finding gems in the draft. Let's go through the same exercise as the one we did for the Patriots above and see where Seattle found some of its key players, both on offense and defense:


Russell Wilson, QB: 3rd round pick (75) in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Marshawn Lynch, RB: 1st round pick (12) in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Bills.

Max Unger, C: 2nd round pick (49) in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Luke Willson, TE: 5th round pick (158) in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Jermaine Kearse, WR: Undrafted Free Agent in 2012 (Signed by Seahawks).

Wild Card: Doug Baldwin, WR, Undrafted Free Agent in 2011 (Signed by Seahawks).

Of the six most important offensive players for the Seahawks today, three were drafted by the Seahawks and the two undrafted free agents were signed by Seattle right out of college. Only Lynch played for another NFL franchise. Wilson is obviously the wheel that drives the Seahawks' bus and Lynch is the engine that makes it go. Without Unger, Seattle's running game has been much less efficient. His presence as a healthy anchor of the Seahawks' offensive line is huge for Lynch. Tight end Luke Willson has shown an uncanny ability to get open between the linebackers and the secondary when Wilson scrambles, while Kearse and Baldwin have a knack for making one or two big plays in big game and in big spots.


Richard Sherman, CB: 5th round pick (154) in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Kam Chancellor, S: 5th round pick (133) in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Earl Thomas, S: 1st round pick (14) in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Bobby Wagner, LB: 2nd round pick (47) in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Michael Bennett, DE: Undrafted free agent in 2009 (Initially Signed by Seahawks).

Wild Card: Byron Maxwell, CB, 6th round pick (173) in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Seahawks.

Of the six most important defensive players for the Seahawks today, five were drafted by the Seahawks, while the lone undrafted free agent was signed by Seattle out of college in 2009, waived then smartly re-signed in 2013. The impact of Seattle's defense starts with the secondary. The importance of Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas goes without saying. Wagner, although he doesn't get as much publicity as the secondary players, is the man in the middle of the Seahawks' explosive linebacking corps. Maxwell is crucial because most of the time, he'll be the one teams target as they stay away from Richard Sherman.

Overall, of the 12 most crucial players for the Seahawks today, eight were drafted by Seattle. Of the remaining four, three were signed by the Seahawks as undrafted free agents out of college.


As I stated above, to be somewhat successful in the NFL, franchises need to be good at any one or two of the three categories we just examined: head coach, quarterback and drafting. However, to be elite and maintain that status, it is necessary to be proficient at all three. The Seahawks since 2010 and the Patriots for the last 14 years have excelled at building their team through the draft, with a few key free agency acquisitions. They've also had head coaches that have the ability to get the best out of their players, game in and game out. Finally, as the cliché goes, "it's a quarterback league," and both Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll have enjoyed deadly efficient play and great leadership from Tom Brady and Russell Wilson respectively.

Whoever of the Seahawks or Patriots wins today will go down in history as Super Bowl XLIX Champion, but this is a win that was built for years, through smart drafting strategy, meticulous game preparation and the will to put it all on the line on gameday. That's what it takes to be Super Bowl champion, something we hope to see again soon, right here in New Orleans with the Saints. Enjoy the game everyone and may the best team win!