Super Bowl XLIX is a matchup of two of the best run organizations in the NFL. The New England Patriots are owned by Robert Kraft, who hired Bill Belichick in 2000 and gave him total control of the franchise, and then watched as the Hooded Terror won the first Super Bowl in franchise history, two more after that, and a total of 12 division titles with a system of combining talented players who buy into their system with shrewd salary cap management, a lethal combination in this day and age. One that if applied correctly can sustain a winner, as long as talent continues to pour in, which is a usually a given with Belichick’s proven track record. Their opponent in the sixth Super Bowl they will appear in since 2001, has taken a similar route to success in a short period of time.

After firing head coach Jim Mora one year after Mike Holmgren left the franchise, the Seattle Seahawks handed the keys to the castle to Pete Carroll, the former Jets and Patriots head coach who had a historic run at USC torpedoed by NCAA violations, and watched as he picked his own general manager (John Schneider) and laid the groundwork for what was to come. The 2010 draft saw Carroll start to build his defense through the secondary; taking Earl Thomas in the second, Walter Thurmond in the fourth, and Kam Chancellor in the fifth. After the draft the real work began, with 284 player moves over the course of the season, the most important one coming in the form of two mid-round picks to the Buffalo Bills for running back Marshawn Lynch, who wound up single-handedly tearing through the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs to make the Seahawks the first 7-9 team to win a playoff game. The 2011 draft saw James Carpenter become the second offensive lineman taken by Seattle in the first round (alongside 2010 draftee Russell Okung), this was the draft that solidified what would become known as the “Legion of Boom,” with Richard Sherman in the fifth and Byron Maxwell in the sixth (in addition to linebackers KJ Wright and last year’s Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith).

After missing out on the playoffs that season, 2012 became the defining moment in the Seahawks path towards a championship, much as taking Tom Brady in the sixth round came to define the reign of Bill Belichick. In the 2012 draft, Pete Carroll defied rational logic according to most analysts, Mel Kiper, Jr. included. He took a player who had been arrested the day before his pro day workout in the first round (Bruce Irvin), took another undersized linebacker in the second (Bobby Wagner), took a quarterback in the third after committing $27 million to Matt Flynn (Russell Wilson), and closed the day by trading up to take a defensive line as an offensive lineman after only one other team thought enough to scout the player for offensive purposes (the team was Baltimore, and the player would join Carpenter, Okung, and pre-Carroll holdover Max Unger on the starting unit of the line; JR Sweezy). The critics scoffed, but Carroll knew the core of his team was now complete. 2012 ended in defeat by the Falcons in the division round of the playoffs, but with a stable of young, salary cap friendly players on board, the Seahawks had the flexibility most teams don’t have. They signed defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and took a major chance on Percy Harvin to give Russell Wilson a playmaker on offense — one working and the other one disappointing — en route to their first Championship in franchise history last year.

The Seahawks road to the top hasn’t been an easy one, and they’ve lost talented players through free agency (Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons)
as every team has. But Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have been able to maintain their financial principles while maintaining a winner with a fairly easy system of quality drafting and supplemental free agent pieces. It’s the reason why Wilson and Lynch are the only two big names on offense, and why Harvin was jettisoned so quickly when it become apparent he didn’t fit their system. It was with a certain decisiveness only seen…in New England.

While this Super Bowl could be the first “Pick ’em” line in history, the Patriots come in facing a team that in many ways is a younger version of themselves. And if the Seahawks are able to be only the eighth team to win back-to-back Super Bowls, they will be able to maintain their core for at least one more year; before Lynch’s contract expires, and before Wilson’s rookie contract is up. Having Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, Avril, Bennett, and Wright signed long-term does ensure that Carroll and the Seahawks can remain competitive no matter what happens beyond that.

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