All Heart: The 1984 Seahawks fly high in the Emerald City
Coming off a franchise resurgence in 1983, including a surprisingly deep playoff run, the Seattle Seahawks’ aspirations were high in 1984. However, bouts of adversity would threaten to derail a promising season in the Emerald City.
Coach Chuck Knox, in his second season, was coming off a 9-7 campaign in ’83 and a loss to the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC Championship Game.
The Seahawks had running back Curt Warner returning after a stellar rookie season in ’83. Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent was still producing eye-popping numbers and the Seahawk defense promised to be a dominant force. While there were questions at quarterback, young Dave Krieg took control in the preseason and was ready to breakout.
As the 1984 season dawned with a marquee matchup on “Monday Night Football,” the stars were aligned for Seattle to make a Super Bowl run. However, just minutes into the game, a major injury would deal a crushing blow to the Seahawks’ championship dreams.
WARNER INJURY OVERSHADOWS MNF BLOWOUT
Seattle opened its promising ’84 season with a 33-0 pounding of the Cleveland Browns in the Kingdome on “Monday Night Football.”
The Seahawks dominated in almost every facet of the game and flexed their muscles on offense and defense. After the game, however, few people were talking about Seattle’s sterling performance. Everyone was talking about Curt Warner’s injury.
Warner, the exciting young running back from Penn State, pulled up with a knee injury early in the game. It did not look good. Warner had enjoyed a remarkable rookie season in ’83 with nearly 1,500 yards rushing, 42 receptions for 325 yards and 14 touchdowns. He earned Pro Bowl honors and was expected to be the focal point of Knox’s offense.
Seattle weathered the huge loss of Warner by starting the season 4-1. The only loss during that stretch was a 28-14 setback to the defending Super Bowl champion Raiders on Oct. 7. But to keep winning and reach their goals, the Seahawks needed other leaders to step-up.
KRIEG STEADIES THE SHIP
Dave Krieg, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, was familiar with being overlooked. Now it was finally his time to shine.
Krieg shares a unique similarity with the author of this article: both were born in the tiny town of Iola, Wisconsin (pop. 1,301). Krieg attended Milton College, a small NAIA school no longer in existence.
In 1983, Krieg split time as Seattle’s starting quarterback with Jim Zorn. Krieg went 5-3, Zorn finished 4-4 so Knox chose Krieg in ‘84. Krieg returned the favor, earning a Pro Bowl spot and leading Seattle to its best record (12-4) in team history.
NFL Films captured the spirit of Seattle’s team in “One From the Heart: The Story of the 1984 Seattle Seahawks.” In the season recap, narrator Jeff Kaye describes Krieg as “the type of player who does everything to win.”
In the video, Krieg comments on how he waited four years for this opportunity. The Wisconsin native finished the season with 3,671 yards passing with 32 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Krieg completed 276 of 480 passes for an 83.3 percent rating. He trailed only Dan Marino in TD passes that season.
LARGET LEADS RECEIVING CORPS
By 1984, wide receiver Steve Largent was well on his way toward building a Hall of Fame career.
Largent turned 30 years old in September and was still among the league’s top receivers. He hauled in 74 receptions for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns. Largent averaged 15.7 yards per reception. In the NFL Films movie, Kaye describes the crafty Largent as “the old maestro.” He wasn’t the biggest or fastest receiver on the field, but he always found ways to make the crucial catch.
Krieg also fired passes to Daryl Turner (35 receptions, 715 yards, 10 TDs) and tight end Charlie Young (337 yards on 33 receptions).
After the loss of Warner, fellow running backs David Hughes and Eric Lane took control of the backfield, with help from veteran Franco Harris. The future Hall-of-Famer rushed for 170 yards in his only season in Seattle before retiring.
DOMINANT DEFENSE CREATES HAVOC
Long before the “Legion of Boom” imposed its will on opposing offenses, Seattle’s ’84 unit stamped its place in NFL lore.
The best defense in team history (at that point) produced sacks and created turnovers at a break-neck pace. The Seahawk defense set the tone early, hounding the Browns with seven sacks in the MNF opener.
Strong safety Kenny Easley swiped a league-leading 10 interceptions. Easley amassed 126 yards on interception returns and scored two touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Easley was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
Complementing Easley in the defensive backfield were cornerback Dave Brown (eight interceptions, 179 yards, two TDs) and free safety John Harris (six interceptions). Seattle’s defensive front was guided by a fierce three-man pass rush. Nose tackle Joe Nash, an All-Pro selection in ’84, collected seven sacks, 82 tackles, three fumble recoveries and one TD. Right defensive end Jeff Bryant led the charge with 14.5 sacks and one safety, while Jacob Greene, Bryant’s left-side counterpart, had 13 sacks and four forced fumbles. Mike Fanning, who played all over the defensive line, added seven sacks, enjoying the best season of his 10-year career.
“We’re not a big bunch of guys, but we play with pride and we play with hustle and … just let it all hang out,” Green said in the NFL Films’ piece.
Nash said the key to Seattle’s uprising was familiarity with each other.
“We’ve been playing together as a unit for the past three years,” Nash said.
EASLEY PULLS DOUBLE-DUTY, SPECIAL TEAMS SHINES
Seattle’s special teams play was a major highlight in ’84.
After starting punt returner Paul Johns was lost to injury, Easley told Knox he would return
punts. It was another tough blow as Johns was leading the league in punt-return yardage. With
Easley leading the defense and having a remarkable season, it was a gutsy move that paid off.
Linebacker Fred Young was the first player in league history to earn a Pro Bowl trip based solely on his special teams’ play. Young’s bone-jarring hits struck fear in returners around the league.
Kicker Norm Johnson, another Pro Bowl selection, connected on 20 of 24 field-goal attempts and 50 of 51 extra-point tries.
Overall, Seattle’s special teams led the NFL in blocked kicks and turnovers.
After the Oct. 7 loss to the Raiders, Seattle rolled off eight-straight wins. The Seahawks, however, stumbled late in the season, falling 34-7 to Kansas City and 31-14 to Denver, costing Seattle the AFC West Division title.
Seattle hoped to sweep the Broncos after nipping them in the Mile High City just a few weeks before. The Nov. 25 clash was a shining moment for Krieg who passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle landed the first punch after Krieg hit Turner on an 80-yard TD bomb on the game’s opening play.
Largent had an outstanding day: 12 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown.
On Oct. 29, the Seahawks blanked the high-powered Chargers 24-0 on MNF. Defensively, Seattle intercepted San Diego star Dan Fouts three times. Less than a week later, the defense put in its strongest performance of the season – a 45-0 rout of the Chiefs. Seattle returned four interceptions for touchdowns, including two from Brown.
The Seahawks really hit a groove in November. On Nov. 12, six turnovers, including three fumble recoveries, lifted Seattle to a 17-14 win over the Raiders.
PLAYOFF JOY AND PAIN
Heading into the playoffs, the Seahawks had a perfect opportunity to seek revenge against the team that ended their season in ’83.
After going 9-7 and sliding in as a wild card team, Seattle had an impressive run to the AFC title game. The Seahawks ripped Denver 31-7 and upset Miami 27-20. However, the powerful Raiders stopped the Seahawks 30-14, ending their Cinderella season one game shy of the Super Bowl.
The Raiders went on to win the title with a victory over Washington. While they weren’t as potent as they had been in previous seasons, the ’84 Raiders still had a veteran team capable of going back to the Super Bowl. The AFC West foes split their season series. Anything was possible.
Backed by a raucous Kingdom crowd, Seattle had another strong day defensively and produced just enough offense to take a 13-7 victory.
As Kaye put it in the NFL Films piece, Seattle’s defense “bludgeoned the Raiders.” Los Angeles QB Jim Plunkett was harassed most of the game and never got into rhythm. Clinging to their six-point cushion late in the game, of course it was Easley who sealed the win with an interception of Plunkett.
No Warner? No problem. Seattle’s offensive line bore holes in the Raiders’ defense. The Seahawks racked up more than 200 yards rushing.
Denver (13-3) won the ultra-competitive AFC West in ’84, meaning Seattle would have to win two more playoff games on the road to reach the Super Bowl. On Dec. 29, Seattle traveled to Miami for the Divisional Playoffs. The 14-2 Dolphins overmatched Seattle, ending a dream season with a 31-10 win.
Marino, in the midst of a record-breaking season, had three touchdown passes. On the ground, Miami finished with 143 yards. The Dolphins wrapped up the AFC title a week later and fell to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.
The Seahawks, making the long trip back to the Pacific Northwest, were disappointed the season was finished but optimistic for the future.
Seattle fell back to mediocrity in ’85 (8-8), but rebounded to 10-6 in ’86. They could never quite rekindle the magic of ’84, and after a 7-9 season in ’91, Knox was fired.
Knox enjoyed a 22-year head coaching career in the NFL. He was named an AP Coach of the Year three times, including ’84. Along with leading Seattle, Knox coached the Rams, twice, and the Bills. He finished 186-147-1 with a 7-11 mark in the playoffs. Knox, 86, died in 2018.
Krieg left Seattle after 12 years in 1991, but was far from finished. He played for five more teams, mostly as a backup, before taking his last snap with the Tennessee Oilers in 1998. He finished with 38,147 yards, 261 touchdowns and 199 interceptions. He went to the Pro Bowl three times, all with Seattle.
Warner came back strong in ’85, rushing for more than 1,000 yards. He had his best season in ’86 with 1,481 yards and 13 touchdowns. He amassed 6,844 rushing yards and 56 TDs. Warner finished his career with the Rams in 1990.
Hughes played two more seasons before retiring with the Steelers in ’85. Lane played three more seasons in Seattle and retired after the ’87 season.
Largent played through the ’89 season, having one of the great careers in NFL history. He played in exactly 200 games, scored exactly 100 touchdowns and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in ’95. He had 819 receptions for 13,089 yards and was a seven-time Pro Bowler. In 2019, Largent was named to the NFL 100th anniversary all-time team.
Largent entered politics after his football career, representing his native Oklahoma as a congressman.
Turner had a league-leading 13 touchdown receptions in ’85. He played with Seattle through the ’87 season before retiring.
Nash played his entire 15-year career in Seattle and retired in 1996. He played in 218 games and produced 743 solo tackles. Bryant also never left Seattle, finishing with 63 sacks from 1982-93. Green (1980-92), was a force along the defensive line. Green had 16 sacks in ’83, 13.5 sacks in ’85, 12 in ’86 and 12.5 in ’90. He ended his career in ’92 with the 49ers.
Easley had a fairly short but remarkable career. From 1981-87, Easley was a three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Brown played 15 seasons, 11 in Seattle, before retiring with the Packers in ’89. He finished with 62 interceptions in 216 games. Harris put together a solid resume during his eight seasons in Seattle. The free safety had 10 interceptions in ’81 and seven in ’85. He retired as a Viking in ’88.
KINGDOM ROCKED IN 1984
As the Seahawks piled up victories, the Kingdome faithful showed its support.
One fan told NFL Films he traveled 1,800 miles from Alaska to see every Seattle home game. Counting the playoffs, the Seahawks went 8-1 at the Kingdom in ’84. After their Wild Card win over the Raiders, players stuck around a bit longer to thank the fans in their final home game. Every time the Seahawks faced a hurdle, they met the challenge head-on. Seattle’s loyal fans appreciated their will to overcome.
Kaye summed it up perfectly as he ended the NFL Films movie. “It was a tribute to Seattle’s fans who had given all their love to a team that played with all its heart.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Damask is an 80sFootballCards.com contributor
as well as the Editor of the Columbus Journal in Columbus, Wisconsin.
You can contact Kevin at email@example.com
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kdamask