As national momentum surrounding the Seattle Seahawks has begun to fade following back-to-back one-possession losses, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that they've significantly outperformed preseason expectations.
Holding a 6-5 record, the Seahawks are firmly in the race for both the NFC West crown and final wildcard spots ... at a time when many projected them to be fighting for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
There are several reasons behind Seattle's surprising campaign, including the breakouts of quarterback Geno Smith, cornerback Mike Jackson and safety Ryan Neal, among several others, and high-level impact of the rookie class, led by offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, running back Ken Walker III, cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant and outside linebacker Boye Mafe.
The unexpected rise and contributions from so many players on the roster are largely a microcosm of the team's overall identity - a scrappy bunch determined to prove doubters wrong, and perhaps more importantly, themselves right.
It's also an extremely positive reflection on Seahawks general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and the rest of the front office for finding, developing and maximizing the talents of the over-achieving group.
This reflection isn't lost on Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, a defending Super Bowl champion widely viewed as one of the top coaches in the league ... and the next opponent on Seattle's calendar.
McVay's staff has become well known for aggressively acquiring high-end talents like quarterback Matthew Stafford and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but without the organizational depth built through mid to late round draft picks and underrated free agency adds, the Rams' postseason run might not have happened.
In essence, McVay is highly qualified to speak on roster building - and he's extremely impressed with the job Schneider and Carroll have done.
“I think it's a credit to the culture that they've built there," McVay said. "They've got a very clear philosophy with John Schneider and Coach Carroll in terms of who they want onboard, what they want it to look like, and I think that’s served them really well. It's why they've been so consistently successful over the last handful of years."
Seattle's culture has truly been put to the test of late; for several years, the team's identity was Russell Wilson on offense and the Legion of Boom on defense. Neither are present on this season's Seahawks team, but they simply keep on winning.
It's difficult to look at the results and not marvel at the job Carroll and Schneider have done to turn the tides of the franchise in such a quick manner, and it's particularly noteworthy to understand that they've done it by establishing a team identity that permeates throughout the roster, rather than merely exemplified by the top standouts.
"They play hard, they’re very fundamentally sound, they're disciplined in all three phases," said McVay. "Like I said, there's a clear-cut philosophy on how they want to compete and what they want their tape to be able to look like."
These are traits that Carroll truly wants his team to possess, and this year's bunch absolutely has the goods. Better yet, the success of the rookie class inspires confidence that this identity - this culture - can be sustained moving forward ... much like it was during the previous era of Seahawks football.
"They've had a lot of rookies that have really contributed, done a lot of really good things on both sides of the football," McVay stated. "Whether it's the offensive linemen (Cross and Lucas), the back (Walker), you're looking at some of their DBs (Woolen and Bryant), it's been really impressive and that's kind of par for the course for those guys just getting more familiar with them over the last six years.”
Entering the season, Los Angeles and Seattle being a matchup between teams with records of 3-8 and 6-5 wouldn't have been terribly surprising - but few would've believed that the Seahawks would be the one with the winning record.
It's a testament to the unpredictably of the NFL, and moreover an illustration of the job Schneider and company have done to reload Seattle's roster in a short manner.
This was supposed to be a struggle-filled season en route to a top draft pick, but the Seahawks have managed to put themselves firmly in playoff contention as the calendar flips to December while also providing several indications that it's simply the beginning.
And that, as McVay said, is "really impressive."
You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter @DFlickDraft
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