BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 02/03/2016

Thiel: Seahawks’ 10th anniversary of . . . shhh

Can we talk about XL now? Ten years ago Friday, the Seahawks lost their first Super Bowl appearance, thanks in part to ghastly officiating. But it’s time to take it out of the attic.

Holmgren Super Bowlv complaint

The Seahawks’ first Super Bowl coach, Mike Holmgren, was right about Super Bowl XL  — four years later. / Sportspress Northwest file

Much of this pre-Super Bowl week is devoted to saluting the game’s 50th anniversary. But nobody is saying much in Seattle about the Seahawks’ 10th anniversary of their first Super Bowl appearance. It just sits in the attic, like the gag trophy for the winner of the three-legged race at the family’s summer reunion picnic.

For all those Amazon newbies who are arriving in Seattle at a 1,000-a-day rate, here’s a brief history of the Game That Shall Never be Spoken Of XL (as opposed to the Game That Cannot Be Unseen XLIX):

What? Are you kidding me, ref?! Fercripesakes! WTF? I don’t freakin’ care that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit! How can you penalize a quarterback for a low block when he is chasing the guy who intercepted his pass?! . . .

I could go on, but: Steelers 21, Seahawks 10.

It was the worst-officiated game in Super Bowl history, a fact you will not see acknowledged this week in San Francisco/San Jose/Santa Clara/Wherever ahead of the Carolina-Denver disagreement.

The NFL employs a battalion of death-eaters to swoop over the history books to devour the impure. But the death-eaters missed one guy: Bill Leavy, the game’s lead official.

So overcome by guilt and shame was Leavy, that at a Seahawks preseason game in 2010 to discuss rules changes, unprompted, he astonishingly owned up — in Seattle — to his misdeeds that afternoon at Detroit’s Ford Field.

“It was a tough thing for me,” Leavy told reporters at the Seahawks practice facility. “I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter, and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly. I’ll go to my grave wishing that I’d been better. I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn’t good enough.

“When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them.”

Interesting he didn’t own it until Mike Holmgren left as coach. The NFL never booked Levy for another Seahawks game while The Big Show stomped the sidelines. Might have looked like the bear scene in “The Revenant.”

All the players and coaches from that team have moved on. Most of the fans who were here haven’t. But neither do they dwell, at least not since Pete Carroll has distracted them with four 10-win seasons in a row, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship, part of a 60-36 regular-season record and 8-4 in the playoffs.

A decade later, it is time to rehabilitate that Super Bowl run, at least to a place in the living room where it can be discussed.

It was a hell of a regular season, 13-3. With Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks pounded the Redskins and Panthers in the playoffs. They had a fair shot against a good but not great Steelers team led by a sophomore galoot named Ben Roethlisberger. He completed nine passes. And won.

Officiating atrocities aside, the Seahawks made the Super Bowl in their 30th year. That doesn’t sound like much, but when a survey after 40 years of the NFL landscape is taken that includes the Carroll era, the Seahawks as a franchise have finally filled out the uniform.

The Seahawks’ three Super Bowl appearances tie them with the Cleveland/Los Angeles/St.Louis/Los Angeles Rams for 14th. Four teams have made eight appearances: Pittsburgh, Dallas, New England and now Denver. So the Seahawks are middling, but the NFL until the free agency era began was lopsided.

The Seahawks’ lone Super Bowl win means they are one up on 13 NFL teams. Or, as John Clayton likes to say, let’s put it this way: In half a century of Super Bowls, nearly half the teams have failed to win one.

Four teams have never reached the Super Bowl: The Lions, Browns, Jaguars (1995 expansion) and Texans (2002 expansion).

If Super Bowl history is considered over the past 20 years, the Seahawks are wearing big boy pants. The demarcation is important, because after the 1993 collective bargaining agreement that permitted real free agency for the first time, the business of team-building changed so radically that measures of comparable success before 1995 are almost irrelevant.

It’s like the dead-ball, live-ball split in baseball’s history. The game was so changed the old standards were marginalized.

Since 1995, the first year of major player movement, New England has made seven Super Bowl appearances. Pittsburgh and Denver have made four. The Seahawks are tied with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at three. The Colts, Panthers, Ravens, Rams and 49ers have two.

It’s probably little solace this week to Seahawks fans, who at this time a year ago were hanging on to every word Marshawn Lynch wasn’t saying, but the franchise has moved to the fast lane.

Except for one bad referee and one bad play, they would be 3-0 in Super Bowls, the NFL’s leading mark.

So on the 10th anniversary Friday of the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit,  it’s time to take the game out of the attic and talk about it as if no longer has cooties.

The 2015 loss? Let’s talk in 2025.



  • Jamo57

    Hey Art, may I propose an edit? The Eagles, coached by Dick Vermeil, lost to the Raiders. 1981 if I remember correctly.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, alert readers. Browns, not Eagles, are the fourth team never to make the SB. The current Browns began in 1999; their predecessor Browns (now the Ravens) won four NFL titles pre-SB.

      Apologies to the Eagles fans. Steve Kelley will never forgive me.

  • Mark Thurston

    Um. . McNabb and the Eagles also made the SuperBowl against the Patriots in 2004. . not that I’m an Eagles fan. .

    • Jamo57

      Oh yeah, that’s right. Forgot that one as well. Showing my age that I can remember ’81 but not ’04. LOL

  • Mark Thurston

    Cleveland, Jacksonville, Detroit and Houston. have never been to the Superbowl. . .

    • notaboomer

      screw art modell

  • Mark Thurston

    Love your stories Art. . I’d edit them for free just to get to read them. . . been reading You since back at the P-I. . . You’re still the Best

    • art thiel

      Thanks Mark. You’re hired!

  • DJ

    “Except for one bad referee and one bad play, they would be 3-0 in Super Bowls, the NFL’s leading mark.”

    Speaking of small margins between being great and not, this post season we were oh-so-close to making the big show once again. Thought that the SB loss would have been enough motivation, but didn’t count on the hangover carrying into this season. We know that the Hawks had the capability to have beaten the Panthers and the Cardinals in the playoffs, they just made it too hard on themselves.

    I can’t wait for next season – we’ve got a great, young team, who should be much smarter in knowing the value of putting together a complete season. Gonna be one hell of a fun 2016! (…and no more trips to St Louis! – Of course, sorry for their loss!)

    Back to the subject at hand, it still stings to see Bill Cowher get introduced as a “Super Bowl Winning Coach”, I absolutely cannot watch “A Football Life – Jerome Bettis”, and I fast forwarded through Bettis’ HOF induction speech. What a crime! We really had one hell of a team, and will always hold those guys in great reverence.

    As always, thanks for a great take Art, albeit a few lingering dry heaves!

    • bugzapper

      I’m with you when it comes to the lionizing of Cowher, Bettis and that Steelers “victory.” It ought to be in the record books with an asterisk.

      • art thiel

        The whole pro-Pittsburgh sentiment before the game was galling for Seattle; insufferable after.

        • Kirkland

          At the time I knew a lot of the SeaGals. One of them told me that when they set up “meet the SeaGals” booths and events, everybody just walked right past them and flocked to whatever Steelers thing was going on. She was absolutely seething when she told me the story, several months after.

          Re: the game itself, sure, the Seahawks shot themselves in the foot a few times. But a glance at the stats show they should’ve beaten Pittsburgh with fairer officiating. How often does a eam that commits FEWER turnovers lose by double digits? I’ll always remember that NFL Films clip of the bench groaning after a bad call, and one Hawk looking at the camera and asking. “Are you getting all this?”

    • art thiel

      The XL rage fades slowly, but sustained success under Carroll should take away the sting.

      • MrPrimeMinister

        Aye, but, we in the context of the “10 greatest SB plays”, or “20most memorable SB” etc. . . ., we are forever condemned to watch the missing yard play. Forever.

        • jafabian

          What’s frustrating is the Hawks should have 3 trophies right now.

          • MrPrimeMinister

            They will always show it. We can turn our heads away, pretend not to see it, flip the channel for 30 seconds, condemned, I say.

          • art thiel

            I believe Darwin said it best: Adapt or die.

      • Kirkland

        48 more than made up for it. The Seahawks didn’t just win, they decimated Denver, and the 12s far dominated the Denver fans as well. As thorough of a presence as the ’85 Bears win.

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  • MrPrimeMinister

    Its always good to get affirmation of what we think we saw, and what we actually saw. Every so often a non-partial guy like Al Michaels makes reference to it. After that debacle, the wife, as furious as they get over that debacle, boycotted the NFL for a good 4 years. Thanks for the write-up.

    • art thiel

      If Leavy himself owns up unsolicited, you know that everyone with an interest in the NFL knows Seattle was hosed.

  • Matt712

    The “low block”
    The “pushing the ball across the line for a TD while laying tackled on the ground” by “the rookie galoot”
    The “push-off” by D-Jack to nullify a TD
    And of course, The “phantom hold” by Locklear

    While only one of those controversial calls was indisputably wrong, the others were at best razor-thin calls, particularly for playoff football. But what was most galling was the timing of those calls. They were all huge momentum killers at crucial times – so much so that the “Aww shucks, sorry I got it wrong” line by Levy rings pretty damn hollow.

    Perhaps the real reason he lost sleep (if he actually did lose any) was the guilt and shame of selling one’s soul to men in dark glasses with ear-pieces whose directive it was to keep Detroit from burning to the ground if Jerome Bettis were denied his ring.

    Now, let me get back to my X-Files reboot. …Where’d I put my foil hat?

    • art thiel

      Next up for you: “Men in Black.”

  • jafabian

    For whatever reason the NFL network replayed XL a few weeks ago and I swear the game looks worse now. The breaks the Steelers got were atrocious. Might as well have had Vinny Testaverde play in that game so the refs could mistake his head for the football. Steve Raible insists to this day that on paper the Seahawks were the better team and I fully agree. I don’t know if the NFL penalized the officiating crew in any way but considering the ramifications they should have been.

    • art thiel

      Seahawks were the better team, but the top-tier offense gettinng 10 points wasn’t all on the refs.

  • Warchild_70

    `With a son-in-law that’s fully vetted in the Black and Gold I must some time listen to his braying how we got ran over that game. Now here you come to relive that sour taste again. Big Ben even admitted he wasn’t in!! Oh well as the pun-dents said we are just sour grapes over being whupped by a superior team. Well in hindsight the next SB game was like sweet cream and strawberries followed by WHAT THE H*** IS HE DOING??? Yes that game was atypical of the Seahawks luck. I hope Matthew comes back to retire that would be nice. Guess I’ll go back in my office and see what the crystal ball is saying about the Beastie and all the other F A’s. Nice read though Art brought back some memories of just how good the Hawks had it.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. You win the participation ribbon for having a Steeler fan in the family.

  • John Playdoe

    It was this very game that made me boycott the nfl for a few years before returning back to watch the about that phantom butler…I was screaming from the goal line (beast mode)!..only to see marshawn fading left being scared and realizing I was the dummy to be so outsmarted by the most sneakiness smartest pass play call????…lol whatever!!!…i mean beast mode just ran it thru their guts almost scoring a touchdown and bevell decided to go with the cryptonite!!!….anyways enough of that…what hurt me most about our first super bowl appearance was the slap in the face nfl gave the fans who are obviously watching the same game….it was as if none of us knew a darn thing about football and making it seem as if we saw a ufo,bigfoot,and mother theresa playing pool at the neighborhood bar….the calls on that game were atrocious!!…when I was watching the game and they called a hold or block in the back on seattle don’t recall if it was babineaux,or locklear on a return by steelers,I knew we were fawked!..I’m sorry the most blatant bs call was rothlisboogers hey let me stretch my arms out 2 mins after I was down touchdown play!!!!!!!….oh!!….who by the way went on jay Leno and on record was asked by jay if he thought he made that touchdown and booger said jay I DID NOT…by the way Ben got in trouble for his truthful comments…the only seahawk I wanted to smack that day with a vengeance was low life trouble mr. Jeremy (drop passes) Stevens!!!… Boy was that
    guy was nothing but trouble for the Hawks even before they signed his immature udub butt….who drops a perfect would be touchdown pass from hasslebeck in a super bowl!!!…I just really wanted the win for a well deserving seahawk and my all time favorite player Walter jones….it must have sucked knowing your doing your best only For it to not go anywhere knowing everyone is against you!!!…from the officiating crew,steeler fans,and above all the NFL!!!…it was this game that really defined the line for me…..from the make believe tuck rule to countless calls I had to go back and really do research on the NFL…sorry folks,but the truth is the NFL is an entertainment if the NFL purposely dictates outcomes,there is not a darn thing we can do about it..patriots win sb after 9/11.saints win after katrina…coincidence?…you decide….quite frankly when I watched our first Super Bowl I was thinking the refs gave it to steelers so they don’t get killed after the game with all the millions of Steelers fans in that stadium….in the back of my mind the NFL gave it to Bettis because of retirement….as you can see I can write a book on this game it stings so much…truthfully I started watching NFL again in 2010 what perfect timing!!…I have always been a hawk fan even before our first run to the super bowl…truth be told I felt like a bandwagon fan when I watched the NFL again only because the Hawks were good again…I missed the times seahawks were not well known…I used to watch countless hours and repeats of sports channels just to see a one second clip of a seahawk!practicing or highlight and I’d wait for hours just to watch it again…my wife would go nuts!!!…heck there were times it felt like a whole season not a sport channel would even mention seahawks,only if they had a game coming up…after the irritating bettis and coach coward cheap superbowl win….I mean how can you really call yourselfs champs after a given win by the officiating crew….if its one thing I learned from all this is that you better and must appreciate the seahawks now cause that little window won’t last forever….I really wish big walt comes out of retirement for one play if the Hawks ever make it back to the big dance…to all my fellow Hawks fans who were there in that moment years ago you are and have been truly faithful….and to all the new 12s out there don’t let other fans tell you otherwise…FACT..seahawks fans have always been the loudest even in the kingdoms days where the NFL instituted a noise rule because of it…and for all you non seahawk fans please…I’m tired of you all claiming clink is loud because the way it was built…whatever!!!..clink is and opened air stadium and we are still louder than dome stadiums sad!!.. And to all you chief fans and the rest of the NFL fans,U.S. seahawks fans don’t have to be told by a gigantic screen how,when,and why to yell…we never did it for ratings or to purposely set a standard…just know we love our Hawks and have been die hard screamers since the old days….I know it was a few years after that game until I watched again but I’m a hawk till I die….if you ain’t a hawk you can’t fly with us!!!!….GO HAWKS!!!!!!…….

    • art thiel

      I didn’t intend this post for community therapy, but what the hell. Who needs Dr. Phil when you have me?

  • PokeyPuffy

    Gosh was the Super Bowl XL hangover lengthy! It started with a major skid the next season, and extended through the Mora years. Bleak times…so glad that Pete has worked out here and hope he stays a good long time

    • art thiel

      As you can tell, the hangover is 10 years and counting. That’s worse than I remember from college.

    • Kirkland

      It wasn’t an immediate skid. They won the division the next two years, and won home playoff games too (the Tony Romo fumble). The slide started in 2008, when injuries wrecked Holm green’s last year.

  • MacPhisto92

    No matter what anyone thinks about SBXL… will never come close to the most devastating loss in professional sports history—SBXLIX (I challenge anyone to come up with a more brutal loss in ANY professional team sport. It doesn’t exist—and if you think it does, please state why, and I’ll respond and tell you why it wasn’t)

    Anyway, after digesting SBXL for a decade, I still think the game included some of the worst calls in NFL history, but what stands out to me more, is just how pathetic Seattle played (which you failed to mention Art). How can a team sit around and blame officiating when they still could have easily won despite the god awful calls? Not like the Steelers deserved to win either–(they basically only had 3 good plays the entire game and scored a TD on all 3 of them).

    There were 2 ways Seattle could have won the game…1) Play like crap (which they did) + NO bad calls by refs…..OR… 2) Play a GREAT game + have ALL the same bad calls made. Either way, they win. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, they got door #3) Horrible Play + Horrible calls. Can Seahawk fans honestly watch that game and say “we were the better team”?? The Jeremy Stevens drop fest ALONE pretty much cost them the game. Or what what Mr. ‘reliable’ Josh Brown missing TWO of three field goals….indoors…..on turf??? How about allowing the Steelers to convert a 3rd and 24 with a lousy jump ball at the goal line?? Or watching that clown Eric Pruitt single handedly give up 14 points on defense? Or what about Hasselbeck melting down in the 4th qtr just because a call went against them? Oh, and how about this….how come I’ve never heard a SINGLE word about punter Tom Rouen and how he screwed over the Seahawks? That sucker had one of the most pathetic games I’ve ever seen by a punter, and somehow he gets left off the hook? He probably cost the Seahawks over 100 yards of field position by never being able to pin the Steelers back deep in their own territory. Every damn punt of his went into the damn endzone for a damn touchback….”here Ben, take the ball at the 20 yard line instead of the 2″ Tom Rouen is sipping Margarita’s somewhere warm right now, and he’ll never get an ounce of blame for SBXL, when in my mind he’s right up there with Jeremy Stevens, as the biggest XL goat. What about Holmgren choosing to punt instead of going for it—down 11 points with mere minutes remaining?? Anyway, screw the refs, screw the Seahawks embarrassing play against an average opponent, and just simply screw SBXL….neither team should have won that ugly game, and it should be scratched from the record books. Art, please give the finger to Tom Rouen for me if you ever see that sad kicker again…..he needs to know there’s at least 1 person out there that blames him for helping the Seahawks lose SBXL.

    • art thiel

      Wow. Tom Rouen as fall guy. You win the post’s points for originality.

      I do agree that independent of officiating, the Seahawks did play one of their worst games. And from a standpoint of quality of play from both teams as well as officiating, it may have been the worst SB.

    • Sonics79

      As far as most brutal losses ever: One could make an argument for the Texas Rangers blowing two-run leads in the 9th and 10th to the Cardinals in a clinching Game 6 of the ’11 World Series while also being one strike away from winning it twice.

      • MacPhisto92

        Yes, that’s one of the games I thought about as well. The reason that it’s not the all time most brutal loss…is because that was a game 6 of a 7 game series. No matter how brutal is was (and yes, it was brutal)….the series was NOT over when that game ended. Even after suffering the devastating defeat, the Rangers STILL had a another chance to make up for it in game 7–they had a 2nd chance, another life. When Butler intercepted Wilson’s pass, that was it. It was done. Over. Finished. No second chance. No shot at redemption the following night. I’m still not over it, and never will be.

  • Paul Harmening

    Let’s talk? Your 3rd to the last paragraph “Except for ——they would be 3-0 in Super Bowls, the NFL’s leading mark,” says it all and is exactly the same words I’ve been barking to whomever for a year now. In other words, I’m even more pissed about it all than when it started 10 years ago.

    Maybe the 12 should have a “Remember the SBLIX” type convention here at Ocean Shores on Super Bowl Sundays to match the annual season kick-off convention here every August.

    • art thiel

      You set it up. I’ll come talk — if you buy the beer.

      • Paul Harmening


        Too late for Sunday, but hey, lets talk about the August 2016 (12’s) kick off convention here at Ocean Shores where I live. Coach Patera whom I had a long delightful conversation with at the 1st one last year and how he hates the Huskies, since he’s a Duck, and a lot of the other Hawks alumni were there as well, crippled and all and their stories. Earl Thomas’ dad was there and he was a delight. Kissed the top of my bald head and thanked me for being a Hawks fan. AND, there were approximately 15, 000 +_ 12’s in attendance. Great gathering at both the convention center and the Quinault Casino Resort. I’ll see if I can dig up the events chairman (chairlady) name and number if you want, unless you already have that. I met some of the organizers, and believe me, they are a hoot. (I’m not a part of the organization, I just happened to meet some of them)

        We should call it “Back to the Seahawks future”

        So, Art, bring your stories, I’ll buy your beer, (at the banquet/Hawks celebrity talk luncheon, the beers free) but not all the rest.

  • Sonics79

    The 10-year grieving period has (almost?) passed on this one.
    There was the little 30-minute recap on NFL Network the other day and I actually hit ‘play’ instead of ‘delete’. But I still threw up in my mouth a little watching it. The “you touched me” OPI call on D-Jack’s first touchdown really set the tone for the day…

    • art thiel

      The only way deal with grief is to confront it. Good for you.

  • Gerald Turner

    That was a long time ago my only
    Superbowl memory is the snap sailing over Peyton Manning’s head

    • art thiel

      This is how our brains protect us.