Pete Carroll remembers what people said about his 2010 Seahawks when they won their division with a 7-9 record.
"It was an unusual experience and there were a lot of disparaging comments and stuff, like we didn’t belong and all that kind of stuff," he said. "That just added to the fun of beating the world champs in the opening game."
They knocked off the Saints and became the first team in a non-strike-shortened year to not only make the playoffs with a losing record but win a game in the tournament. In fact, both teams in NFL history that have entered the postseason with a losing record won their first playoff game. Four years after the Seahawks did it, the Panthers (7-8-1) beat the Cardinals in the wild-card round. They, like the Seahawks, had a home game because they won their division title.
Chances are a third team with a losing record will make the postseason this year when the NFC East champion is crowned. It could be the Giants, who currently are tied for first with Washington at 4-7.
Carroll has one piece of advice for the wild-card team that will face the NFC East champ.
"Whoever plays them better look out," he said. "There’s a lot going on on that side of it in what you want to prove and how you want to go about it. I know we had a real rousing game at that time in that opportunity and our guys played great football. That’s what you’ve got to do to win the game and go to the next one."
Of course, it could be his own Seahawks who wind up in that position. They currently lead the NFC West by a game but easily could slip to second place and wind up as the top of three wild cards in the conference. That would send them to face the NFC East champ on the road, even though they might have close to twice as many wins as that team.
There are many who believe teams should be seeded by overall record, allowing wild-card teams with better records to host division winners. Carroll, though, said he does not want the league to change its playoff format.
"The guidelines are the guidelines," he said. "I don’t think it should be judged by how many games you won. If you win your division, you win your division. That’s the way it was then [in 2010], that’s the way it is now, and I don’t think there’s any problem with it."
We’ll see if he still thinks that way if he has to travel to New Jersey in early January.