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Originally published February 3, 2014 at 9:39 PM | Page modified February 26, 2014 at 6:06 PM

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New Hawks’ challenge: Stay on fire

Is this team a football dynasty in the making? Between the NFL’s salary cap and the risk of a letdown now that the underdog Seahawks are now champions, the path ahead won’t be simple.


Seattle Times columnist

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The Seahawks have a motivational theme for every practice day, from Tell The Truth Monday to Competition Wednesday and Turnover Thursday, capped by No-Repeat Friday.

Now, after Blowout Sunday in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks and their fans embraced the best day of all: Afterglow Monday.

This exquisite hangover (a literal one in some cases, no doubt) is going to linger awhile — like maybe a lifetime. The memories of Seattle’s 43-8 win over Denver — a blowout of staggering proportions, the product of a brilliant game plan and nearly flawless execution — will be conjured often to brighten dreary winter days.

They will be relived years and decades down the road, with incredulous headshakes over the sheer improbability of making the sainted Peyton Manning look like some rattled rookie.

Not to get all maudlin, but they will be passed down to future generations, just as today’s kids have been regaled with tales of the Sonics’ NBA title in 1979.

But the beauty of the current Seahawks program — and Pete Carroll still often calls their method of operation a “program,” a nod to his college days — is that this doesn’t have to be a one-time celebration, followed by another long drought.

The Seahawks are set up to contend for titles into the foreseeable future. Asked Sunday after the game if he felt like this initial Lombardi Trophy was “the start of something,” general manager John Schneider give a noncommittal answer, neither denial nor boast: “I sure hope so.”

For starters, the Seahawks have the most vital element for any NFL team: A franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, whose stature grew leaps and bounds on Sunday, even if his height didn’t grow an inch. Can we now put to rest, once and for all, any last vestiges of the notion that Wilson is too short to succeed? That’s a stereotype that Wilson has definitively shattered, to the benefit of Johnny Manziel and every other shorter QB to come.

Wilson, by the way, passed for 206 yards on Sunday — the number that just happens to be the Seattle area code. Couple that with the fact that the Seahawks scored 12 seconds into each half — much to the delight of the vaunted “12s” — and the omens were definitely slanted Seattle’s way.

But this win wasn’t about numerology. It was mostly about a defense that rightfully belongs at least in the discussion of the greatest ever. Keeping that unit intact will take some artful maneuvering by Schneider, but while there might be a few departures, the “Legion of Boom” nucleus will be back, along with most key players.

The NFL is a league legislated for parity, with a salary cap that makes it doubly tough to sustain contention, let alone build dynasties (but not impossible; witness New England, which has double-digit wins in 12 of the past 13 years under Bill Belichick, with three Super Bowl wins and five appearances).

Though nothing is guaranteed, the Seahawks definitely have a window of opportunity to remain at championship caliber. They will have to fight to not succumb to the various trappings of success that have been known to sabotage teams once they’ve reached the pinnacle, most notably a dimming of the intensity that drove them there.

The Seahawks, in fact, are more driven than just about any team I’ve been around. They are “a bunch of misfits,’’ in Richard Sherman’s words on Sunday, feeding off the anger over every perceived slight along the way.

It’s hard to play that card so fiercely when everyone is now heaping praise upon the entire program. You can’t play the underdog role when you’re going to go into the 2014 season as everyone’s favorite to win it all again. Carroll’s motivational talents will be put to a new test: Finding the buttons to push to keep Seahawks players driving just as resolutely toward a second title.

Heck, even the fans will be under the gun. Can they muster the same level of rooting intensity now that the title is safely in hand? At some point, the fervor will inevitably wane, because sports success is ultimately cyclical; some cycles just last longer than others.

For the near future, however, I think the 12th Man will only be more emboldened by what went down this year. The Seahawks have accomplished a feat any business would kill for: They have made their customers believe themselves to be instrumental in the success of the company.

That’s the most powerful inducement imaginable to keeping a deafening noise level at CenturyLink (where the favorable acoustics are a co-conspirator), and to keep taking the act on the road.

If fans honestly feel that they can play a role in holding off the threat of a post-title letdown — and they’ve been told so often of their efficacy as to believe it wholeheartedly — then Seahawks mania will only grow stronger next year.

If you want to see Seahawks mania in full force, check back Wednesday at the parade. I’d expect the Super Bowl afterglow to be blinding.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry




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