The Seattle Seahawks are a professional American football team based in Seattle, Washington, USA. They are currently members of the Western Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The team, along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, joined the NFL in 1976 as expansion teams. Seattle is the only team to have played in both the AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC Championship Games. The Seahawks have one Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XL.
On June 15, 1972, Seattle Professional Football Inc., a group of Seattle business and community leaders, announced its intention to acquire an NFL franchise for the city of Seattle, WA. Almost two years later on June 4, 1974, the NFL awarded the group an expansion franchise. On December 5, 1974, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announced the official signing of the franchise agreement by Lloyd W. Nordstrom, representing the Nordstrom family as majority partners for the consortium. Nordstrom died of a heart attack on January 20, 1976, just months before the Seahawks played their first game.
On March 5, 1975, John Thompson, a former University of Washington executive, was hired as the general manager of the yet-unnamed team. The name Seattle Seahawks (another name for osprey) was selected on June 17, 1975 after a public naming contest which drew more than 20,000 entries and over 1,700 different names. Thompson recruited and hired Jack Patera, a Minnesota Vikings assistant coach, to be the first head coach of the new team. Patera was introduced as the new head coach at a press conference on January 3, 1976. The expansion draft was held March 30-31, 1976, with Seattle and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers alternating picks for rounds selecting unprotected players from the other 26 teams in the league. The Seahawks were awarded the 2nd overall pick in the 1976 draft, a pick they used on defensive tackle Steve Niehaus. The team took the field for the first time on August 1, 1976 in a pre-season game against the San Francisco 49ers in the then newly constructed Kingdome.
The Seahawks are the only NFL team to switch conferences twice in the post-merger era. The franchise began play in 1976 in the NFC West division but switched conferences with the Buccaneers after one season and joined the AFC West. This realignment was dictated by the league as part of the 1976 expansion plan, so that both expansion teams could play each other twice and every other NFL franchise once during their first two seasons. In 2002, the Seahawks were returned to the NFC West as part of an NFL realignment plan that gave each conference four balanced divisions of four teams each. This was done after the Houston Texans were added as the thirty-second team. This realignment restored the AFC West to its initial post-merger roster of original AFL teams Denver, San Diego, Kansas City and Oakland.
Seattle has won six division titles in their franchise history: the 1988 and 1999 AFC West titles, and the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 NFC West titles. They have won the NFC Championship Game once in 2005, and lost the AFC Championship Game once in 1983. Before 2005, Seattle had the longest drought of playoff victories of any NFL team, dating back to the 1984 season. That drought was ended with a 20-10 win over the Washington Redskins in the 2005 playoffs. The all-time Seahawks playoff record is (7-10).
As a tribute to the raucous fans that made the Kingdome the loudest stadium in the NFL the Seahawks retired the number 12 on December 15, 1984. Since then #12 Jerseys have been sold by the team and worn by Seahawk fans, often with the name "Fan" on the back. The Seahawks also have a ceremony before each home game where a flag bearing the #12 is raised by a prominent individual. In the 2005 season the fans were again making a difference in games and were recognized with the presentation of a special game ball for their efforts in a game against the New York Giants, a game in which the Giants committed 11 false start penalties in large part because of the crowd noise.
The team's use of the phrase "12th Man" was in a legal limbo for a while between the 2005 and 2006 season when Texas A&M University sued the team for trademark infringement. Before going to trial, both parties settled out of court with Seattle agreeing to acknowledge ownership rights to the 12th Man slogan to A&M. In return the Seahawks were allowed to continue to use the phrase.
Starting in the 1998 season, Blitz has been the Seahawks' official mascot. In the 2003 and 2004 seasons, a hawk named Faith would fly around the stadium just before the team came out of the tunnel. However, because of her relative small size and an inability to be trained to lead the team out of a tunnel, Faith was replaced by an augur hawk named Taima before the start of the 2005 season. Taima started leading the team out of the tunnel in September 2006.
Headquarters and training camps
During the Seahawks' first ten seasons (1976-85), the team's headquarters was at Carillon Point on the shores of Lake Washington. The summer training camps were initially held at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, just southwest of Spokane. When the team's new headquarters across town in Kirkland were completed in 1986, the Seahawks held training camp at home for the next eleven seasons (1986-96), staying in the dormitories of the adjacent Northwest College. In Dennis Erickson's third season as head coach, the team returned to the hotter and more isolated Cheney in 1997, where they held training camp through 2006. In 2007, training camp returned to their Kirkland facility, because of the scheduled China Bowl game that was later canceled. In 2008, the Seahawks held the first three weeks of camp in Kirkland, then moved to the new 19-acre Virginia Mason Athletic Center on August 18 for the final week of training camp. The new facility, adjacent to Lake Washington in Renton, has four full-size practice fields: three natural grass outdoors and a one FieldTurf indoors.