As the Seahawks prepare to make a run of sustained success – or "win forever," as Pete Carroll calls it – there are plenty of people (outside Seattle) who doubt they can do it.
It's easy to see why. After all, aside from the New England Patriots, no team has done it in the free agency era.
The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years in the early 2000s and have been highly competitive since then. But even they have not been able to recapture that dynastic magic. They have lost their two other Super Bowl appearances (both to the Giants), including the season in which they were poised to become the first 19-0 team in NFL history.
Other teams have had some good runs. St. Louis won a Super Bowl and lost one with its spectacular Greatest Show on Turf, and Peyton Manning's Colts were 1-1 in the Super Bowl in the late 2000s. But the Rams faded after a great three-year run, and the Colts couldn't get to the title game more than twice despite being the league's best regular-season team in the 2000s.
It all reflects just how hard it is to create a dynasty in this era of parity.
"It's really hard to get there and it's really hard to maintain it,'' Carroll told reporters at the league meetings in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday. "The challenge of sustaining is greater. It's been demonstrated that teams can get there but, for the most part, they can't stay there. There's all these natural things that happen to a team. There is attrition and expectations -- all those things that have to deal with that success that make it very difficult. So there are really, really great expectations to get that challenge on and demonstrate how to do that.
"We have to handle it really well and deal with it better than people have dealt with it if we're going to be successful."
Here's a look at the most successful teams over the last decade, with the reason(s) they could not stay on top and how Carroll's Hawks compare.
Record: 74-37-1 (.665)
Super Bowl: Won in 2010.
Why they failed: Mike McCarthy's club went 15-1 in 2011 despite having the worst defense in the league (it had the highest-scoring offense), but that defense gave up 37 points in a divisional playoff loss to the Giants. They lost in the divisional and wild-card rounds in 2012 and 2013 largely because their defense has not been good enough.
How Seahawks compare: The Hawks are still ascending on both sides of the ball, and they have two things the Packers have not had: a dominant defense geared to stop elite passers such as Aaron Rodgers and a relentless power running game meant to pound the opponent into submission.
Record: 80-48 (.625)
Super Bowl: Won in 2009.
Why they failed: The NFC West has been the bugaboo for Sean Payton's team, which was upset in Seattle in 2010, lost in San Francisco in 2011 and lost in Seattle again in 2013. Drew Brees and the offense have been prolific, but the defense has not – even in the year they beat the Colts for the NFL title the unit was 25th in yards and 20th in points allowed.
How Seahawks compare: Carroll's team is 3-1 against Payton's, including those two playoff victories. The Hawks limited Jimmy Graham in both meetings last season, and their running game dominated in the 23-15 playoff win (Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards and two scores). This is one of the prime examples of how Carroll's run/defense philosophy trumps elite passing teams.
Record: 55-29 (.655)
Super Bowl: Won in 2008, lost in 2010.
Why they failed: Mike Tomlin's Steelers had the league's best defense during that stretch and was No. 1 again in 2012 as the Steelers faded to 8-8. So what's the problem? The offense, of course. Ben Roethlisberger has been pummeled behind a terrible line and the Steelers have not been able to run the ball as well as they did when Jerome Bettis was there. And now the defense is getting old.
How Seahawks compare: The Hawks use much the same formula as the Steelers have – strong defense, power running game, resilient quarterback. But the Hawks were the youngest team to win a Super Bowl. The defense is in its prime, with many young players still ascending, and Wilson has yet to reach his full potential. For that reason, Carroll's crew appears to have a wider window for success than Tomlin's aging group, which has been a .500 squad the past two years.
Record: 63-32-1 (.661)
Super Bowl: Won in 2005.
Why they failed: The Steelers had quite a run in 15 years under Bill Cowher. They went 1-1 in the Super Bowl, including that 2005 win over the Seahawks, and lost four times in the AFC title game. By the time Cowher finally won, he had burned out; he lasted just one more year before Tomlin rejuvenated the franchise for a few years.
How Seahawks compare: Carroll and Cowher share some of the same coaching philosophies, complementing stellar defense and a power running game with timely plays from their quarterbacks. The Hawks are actually very similar to the 2004-05 Steelers, who went 26-6 and won the Super Bowl with a second-year quarterback. Perhaps the big difference is Carroll is not ready to quit – in fact, he's just getting started with this powerful young team.
NY Giants (2004-13)
Record: 90-70 (.562)
Super Bowl: Won in 2007 and 2011.
Why they failed: Tom Coughlin's team has been all over the board in his 10 seasons, and they got hot twice at the right time. They seemed to have it going in 2008, going 12-4 after their first Super Bowl season. But they lost in the divisional round of the postseason and then failed to make the playoffs the next two years as their defense fell apart. They have missed the playoffs in four years around 2011, which verifies the lightning-strike aspect of their titles.
How Seahawks compare: Led by Eli Manning, the Giants have had a top-10 offense five times in the past eight years, but their defense has rarely been any good. So they rely on Eli to get hot. When Wilson gets hot alongside the Legion of Boom, the Hawks blow out people in big stretches, and that surely is what Carroll is hoping for in 2014. Unlike the Giants, the Hawks have all of the pieces and don't need to rely on lightning.
Record: 109-35 (.757)
Super Bowl: Won in 2006, lost in 2009.
Why they failed: With Peyton Manning, the Colts went nine straight seasons with at least 10 wins and playoff berths. For all of the regular-season success, though, the Colts managed just two Super Bowl appearances and one lone win. They underachieved in the playoffs, losing in the wild-card or divisional round six times because their defense was not built for the kind of slug fests that tend to occur in the playoffs. Tony Dungy's best team was the 13-3 unit in 2007 that was in the top three in defense and top five in offense, but that club lost to San Diego in the divisional round.
How Seahawks compare: Carroll is targeting the kind of regular-season success the Colts had, but he has a better plan for winning in the playoffs. He has a better defense than Dungy ever did, and if his offense can become anything close to what the Colts were, the Hawks will dominate like few before them.
Record: 163-61 (.728)
Super Bowl: Won in 2001, 2003, 2004; lost in 2007 and 2011.
Why they failed: Since putting together the only dynasty in the free agency era from 2001 to 2004, the Patriots have remained one of the league's perennially elite teams. But their two other Super Bowl appearances resulted in losses to the upstart Giants, and the Patriots also came up short in three other AFC title games. Tom Brady and company are always a top-10 offense, and the Pats are usually in the top 10 in scoring defense as well. Their main failing in recent years has been poor drafting, which has forced them to try to patch up their defense and receiving corps with free agents. And they have not had the same kind of rushing attack they had during their dynasty years.
How Seahawks compare: The Patriots are the measuring stick for any team in the 21st century, and the Hawks are striving to attain that level of consistent winning. While Belichick relied on versatile veteran players and a running game to support a young Brady during the dynasty seasons, Carroll and Schneider have built the Hawks largely through the draft and are focused on keeping the top young stars so the team's competitive window remains open as long as the Patriots' has.