Outside of just being a damn good football team, there is just something about this returning champion Seattle Seahawks team. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. They are abrasive and brash and walk the talk. They fight against the NFL establishment which they have come to dominate the past few seasons.
And that's when it hit me. It's the Raiders. New age, of course, but they embody all those qualities which those classic Raiders teams had. Swagger, unapologetic, toughness, in-your-face, and enigmatic.
The moment it dawned on me was during media days leading up the Super Bowl. It seems Marshawn Lynch's words, or rather his lack of words, is dominating the news cycle. At least during those moments when they're not talking about deflategate.
Earlier this season, he was fined by the NFL for not speaking to the media. So, the following week, in an act of defiance, he took questions from the media, but answered everything with "Yeah." The next week, he just kept saying some variation of "Thank you for asking." That attitude was ramped up in the Super Bowl media frenzy.
Not only did Lynch set a timer on his phone so he could leave as soon as he possibly could without getting fined, but he answered every question with the brutally honest "I'm just here so I don't get fined." The next day he said simply "Y'all know why I'm here."
All the while this is happening, he's wearing his own "Beast Mode" design of New Era cap and the league was discussing possibly fining him for wearing non-NFL licensed apparel. Even though New Era is a licensed NFL brand.
This game the NFL is playing only emboldens Lynch. And his mockery of the league's media policy is the vocalization of his leaping crotch grab touchdown celebration.
It's the kind of blatant act of defiance that would have made Al Davis proud.
When Al Davis took over the Raiders in 1963, he brought that ‘us against the world' mentality along with him and the team embraced it. They took that attitude and were in the Super Bowl four years later. Then they would win three of them in six years from 1977 to 1983.
The Seahawks made their first Super Bowl in franchise history back in 2005. They too lost their first trip... against the Raiders classic rival Pittsburgh Steelers. At that time, they were upstarts. This team bears no resemblance to that team. This team has attitude. And it's for that reason they were able to break through and win it last season and are making a return trip this Sunday.
The personality of this team is very familiar to those who followed the Raiders back in their heyday.
The "Legion of Boom" consisting of the likes of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas offers shades of George Atkinson, Willie Brown, and Jack Tatum.
Earl Thomas in particular is about as close as you'll find in today's NFL of the level of physicality Jack Tatum brought to the safety position in his day. And they both are exactly the same height and weight: 5-10, 200 pounds.
Russell Wilson's playing style and clutch performances can easily be compared to that of Kenny "The Snake" Stabler. Though personality-wise off the field, they are very different, they function in much the same way on it. And Wilson throwing four interceptions in the NFC Championship only to lead the Seahawks back for an overtime win is vintage Stabler who, despite his many heroics, eight times in his career threw more interceptions in a season than touchdowns.
The Raiders and the NFL have long butted heads. In the early 80s the commissioner tried to block the team's move to Los Angeles and Al Davis went anyway. A year later, the NFL would block the team's trade to acquire Stanford star QB John Elway from the Colts in the 1983 draft, which served him up for the Broncos.
Al Davis and the Raiders were anti-establishment all the way. Their motto "There are (31) NFL teams and then there are the Raiders" was one they embraced with great pride. An ideal the Seahawks seemed to have taken on as well.
With characters like Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, and Michael Bennett, they have taken a stance against what they deem to be injustices in the league.
While Lynch is saying very little, his teammate Richard Sherman talks louder and longer than anyone in sports these days. Even more shocking is he is able to back up every word. In that regard, he is a lot like George Atkinson back in the day with the Raiders.
It's hard to believe it was just a year ago that Sherman went off in a post game interview after the Seahawks beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. That launched him into the spotlight as the self-proclaimed best cornerback in the game.
That spotlight has had the media hovering; waiting for his next move and his next quotable moment. For which he has offered many.
Sherman used that spotlight earlier this season to call a press conference to stand up for Marshawn Lynch after his teammate's $100,000 fine for not speaking to the media after a game. Sherman along with Doug Baldwin - speaking through a cardboard cutout of himself - took to the podium to point out a few NFL polices they deem to be "hypocritical", including sponsorship, fines, and player safety.
Here is a video of that press conference taken by the Tacoma News Tribune. It's pretty comical:
Just this week, Sherman and Michael Bennett both spoke out against the NCAA. Bennett in particular said plainly he thinks the NCAA is "one of the biggest scams in America."
Bennett was also the Seahawks player who, after the Seahawks won the NFC Championship, hopped on a police officer's bike (with permission) and rode around the stadium waving at the fans. It was reminiscent of the time Marshawn Lynch, while at Cal, hopped in a motorized cart and rode around the stadium after a win over Washington.
These kind of statements, stances, and acting out would have fit right in with the rogue characters on those old Raiders teams. With players like "The Mad Stork" Ted Hendricks, John Matuszak (later played the character "Sloth" in Goonies), and Lyle Alzado just to name a few.
It makes its way to the fans as well. The Seahawks have the loudest, most hostile environment in all of football at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle. The Raiders had long been known for that in both Oakland and Los Angeles. Seattle has their "12th man" and the Raiders have their "Black Hole".
What it comes down to is a formula for success. The Raiders had that formula in the 70's and 80's and now the Seahawks are utilizing a new breed of that formula to make themselves into an NFL powerhouse.
If any Raiders fans still carry any kind of hatred for the Seahawks from their days as AFC West rivals, they shouldn't. The Seahawks are the new era embodiment of all you once revered in the classic Raiders. They are also the team that last year took out the Bay Area rival 49ers in the NFC Championship game AND current bitter AFC West rival Broncos in the Super Bowl. Now they return with a shot to take out the hated Tuck Rule/Spygate/Deflategate Patriots as well.
What's not to like?