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Originally published December 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 30, 2008 at 6:12 PM

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Jerry Brewer

Despite injuries, Seahawks must be culpable for 4-12 record

Naturally, this strange, sometimes forlorn, switcheroo of a Seahawks season concluded with an awkward realization. The long season ended quickly.

Seattle Times staff columnist

RENTON — Naturally, this strange, sometimes forlorn, switcheroo of a Seahawks season concluded with an awkward realization.

The long season ended quickly.

Sixteen games and out. Twelve losses, four victories, no playoffs. Even though the Seahawks had known this would be their fate for weeks, it still seemed to finish abruptly.

"It really hasn't set in," said defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, a free agent who may no longer be in the Seahawks' plans. "It'll probably set in when the playoffs start and we're not in it."

And Arizona is taking your spot.

"Arizona's going to the playoffs? That still cracks me up," Bernard said, chuckling. "It's almost funny, you know."

About as funny as a hammer to the thumb.

"It's tough," Bernard said, talking softly now.

Within Bernard's mood swing lies the test for a franchise that just had its five-year postseason streak snapped. The Seahawks must resist the urge to laugh this season off as an aberration, and remember the disappointment.

Instead of watching the bad drain away, they must soak in it. Let the memory of this misery clog the pores for a while. Endure a few nightmares, even.

As wacky as the circumstances were, with rampant injuries and a defense that did the moonwalk, the Seahawks earned their 4-12 record. They were a bad football team, period. Forget about the injury factor, even though it's legitimate. The Seahawks were bad, not terminally bad, but they did plenty to aid this flop.

Accepting this fact will be the first step to improvement. Fortunately, the Seahawks appear to be a team of realists, led by personnel chief Tim Ruskell, who is very self-critical.

Many will fault Ruskell for the Seahawks' problems, most notably his love for undersized cornerbacks. They will consider this offseason a defining one in his tenure as team president. But he has done a solid job since taking over before the 2005 season, and he's capable of correcting what ails this team, especially with the No. 4 and No. 36 picks in the draft to spur the roster reshuffling.

The Seahawks have immediate needs on both the offensive and defensive lines, at wide receiver and in the secondary. In addition, Ruskell must figure out how to re-sign linebacker Leroy Hill and ensure new coach Jim Mora and his staff have the necessary weapons to play their style of football.

That's quite a bit of fixin' for a team one season removed from a 10-6 record and first-round playoff victory. Then again, the realistic goal won't be to repair everything in one offseason. Creating a 2009 playoff contender with a more promising future would suffice.

In the NFL, a league legislated to play musical contenders, such a rebound can happen — as long as the Seahawks don't assume that, with better health alone, they will return to prominence.

The Seahawks had the third-worst defense and fifth-worst offense in the league. There's plenty of humility to be had.

Matt Hasselbeck played in only seven games because of a bulging disk, but Tom Brady played only seven minutes before suffering a season-ending knee injury. And New England still won 11 games.

There's plenty of humility to be had.

"I think you've got to look at it like that," cornerback Marcus Trufant said. "When things go bad, you've got to look at what went wrong. That's what competitors do. You accept what went wrong, and you work to get better."

Linebacker Julian Peterson, who failed to make the Pro Bowl after a stellar first two seasons with Seattle, said he will remember the plays he didn't make. He won't factor in that Hill and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu were injured at times and defensive end Patrick Kerney hurt his shoulder. He didn't play well. It's on him.

"You look at yourself first and evaluate," said Peterson, who had only five sacks. "I definitely have to make more impact plays. I wasn't consistent."

Many Seahawks could've made the same admission. This was a "freak year," as several players stated, but it was a very real one, too.

Like all teams that crave sustained success in the NFL, the Seahawks have reached a critical point. After five good years, including one Super Bowl berth, their standouts are old and their newbies are green. Mike Holmgren, the coach who made them a winner, is headed for a quasi-retirement.

Is this the end? Or have they learned enough from their success to do it again and do it better?

"That's the fun part of it," Peterson said. "It shows the character of the squad. The window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller every year. You have to do something to keep it open or watch it close."

The Seahawks are definitely at the "do something" stage. After a jinxed season, all of their flaws have been exposed.

The Seahawks 4-12?

It's almost funny, you know.

About as funny as a bulging disk.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. For his Extra Points blog, visit seattletimes.com/sports.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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