Pick one word to describe this Seahawks season. Mine would be, “tortuous.” An odd choice for a team that won 11 times in the regular season and a playoff game. It could be interpreted as ungrateful or spoiled. I do not mean it to be. This season has exhausted me. It has raised and lowered my expectations from game-to-game, play-to-play. Areas that were strengths became weaknesses, and vice versa. I felt like I was on a roller coaster built on top of merry-go-round. Trying to make sense of this team was disorienting to the point of nausea.
There were thrills, to be sure. The win against the 49ers was as happy as I have been in years. Seattle looked like a legitimate title contender in that game. A ferocious defense, paired with an MVP quarterback and budding young offense. Then, catalyst Jadeveon Clowney has a major injury that renders him ineffective the rest of the regular season and the offense recedes into a funk, including their star quarterback and their injured top receiver.
The second 49er game is another perfect example of what this season was. A talent gap that was too much to overcome for the first half before roaring back in the second half and coming within inches of winning while making a series of crippling mistakes.
Outside of San Francisco, there are no complete teams in the NFL this year. A team with so many flaws and injuries like the Seahawks could compete with anyone due to their QB and their coach.
An increasing number of fans will scream at the screen when seeing any credit being given to Pete Carroll. While they will get no argument from me that he made major errors in relying on the base defense all season, keeping this special teams coach, and a number of teeth-gnashing game management decisions, I believe there may not be another coach in the game who could have squeezed more effort and unity out of this roster.
John Schneider deserves at least as much scrutiny. There were very few games where the Seahawks roster was more talented than their opponents. Quarterback, receiver, and running back were the areas of strength. The Packers, for example, are not a powerhouse by any stretch, but they had a more talented player at almost every position on the field. Seattle cannot afford another Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier, or even overdrafting a position like running back as they did with Rashaad Penny.
Seattle was starved for pass rush this season. They traded away Frank Clark, which made a lot of sense strategically. Then they signed Ziggy Ansah, which was a complete failure. Shaquil Barrett signed a 1 year, $4M contract with the Bucs and finished with 19.5 sacks. Those who listen to our podcast know I was advocating for him last offseason. Robert Quinn signed a 1 year, $10M contract with the Cowboys and finished with 11.5 sacks. He was another obvious target.
Green Bay went the more expensive route, signing Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to four-year deals worth over $50M, but were rewarded with 26.5 sacks between them.
Chase Winovich was taken with the 77th pick, one Seattle owned. Imagine if the Seahawks took D.K. Metcalf with their first pick and Winovich with their 3rd. Or even if they had found a player other than Jacob Martin to include in the Clowney deal.
I am not calling for Schneider’s ouster. I love him as our GM. I also believe he has not maximized his chances to surround Russell Wilson and provide Carroll with a great roster. Give the Seahawks one or two more quality players and they probably win that game yesterday.
It is impossible to ignore the injury situation. I do not start there because depth is part of your team. People forget the 2013 Seahawks played for weeks without either starting tackle, as well as lost their starting center for a long stretch, and had Brandon Browner suspended. K.J. Wright missed a bunch of games and Sidney Rice was lost for the year. Fans tend to think of that team as being healthier because the players who stepped in were talented and capable.
That said, this Seahawks team is not very deep at a number of positions, and even where they were, they suffered major losses. Running back 1, 2, and 3 were lost. Tight ends 1 and 2. Left guard 1 and 2. Center 1 and 2 (or 3 if you think Pocic was behind Hunt on the depth chart). Left tackle 1 played hurt all season. DE 1 and 2. WR 3. DT 2. DT 1 for six weeks. In all, no team had a higher total of player games lost to injury than Seattle.
How might have this game have turned out differently if Will Dissly was healthy? What about Al Woods? Chris Carson? Those were real, and the team did their best to overcome them.
It contributed to that hollow feeling as a fan that made it difficult to truly believe this team was capable of a sustained run of quality play. Many will blame the coaches. Finger pointing happens. I just see a team that was not one of the five most talented in the NFL when healthy (maybe not even the ten most talented) that was decimated by injury. Better game plans or game management decisions may have resulted in a few better outcomes. Better talent would have as well, and is more independent of coaching.
For this particular game, it was there for the taking. Green Bay is not a great team. The offensive game plan was not good enough early. Seattle’s defense was not very good this year, and that proved to be their downfall against a mediocre offense. Giving up 3rd down after 3rd down will kill a team. Even with all that, Seattle very well might have won had Malik Turner made the simple catch on the team’s last drive.
Wilson was terrific in the second half. The completely different mentalities between the first and second half gets aggravating. It has been that way for a long time. Brian Schottenheimer will spend the offseason trying to figure out how they can start stronger. Seattle finished 15th in the NFL in first half scoring and 8th in second half scoring. There is no reason they cannot be consistent across a game. Figure that out, and you likely also figure out how to be consistent across a season.
This team will look very different next season. The 2020 offseason will set the course for the next 3-4 years. Seattle has a ton of cap space, and create a bunch more by cutting Justin Britt and Ed Dickson. They could consider cutting D.J. Fluker as well. They also have four picks in the first three rounds of the draft, and six picks in the first four rounds.
The flipside of all this opportunity is that Seattle has needs all over the place. They need a nickel corner, an outside corner to push Tre Flowers, defensive ends, defensive tackles, right tackle, center (if Britt is released), receiver, and tight end. You could argue they need more linebackers and even running backs as well.
There will be time to discuss the offseason. For now, we lay to rest a tumultuous season full of heart and heartache, joy and aggravation. We have seen a glimpse of what may become one of the best receiving duo in the game with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. We saw Wilson vault into being a true MVP contender. We saw Carson become one of the games best runners, and Penny shed the bust label. We got to know Quandre Diggs and loved what he can do for this secondary the next 4-5 years. There were shimmers of potential from Marquise Blair and Rasheem Green and Cody Barton and even Shaquem Griffin. Shaquill Griffin became a reliable cover corner. With all that went wrong, this team made a lot go right while facing the league’s toughest schedule. That flips to what should be one of the league’s easiest schedule next season.
If this version of the Seahawks can go toe-to-toe with the most talented roster in the NFL while splitting two games, win eleven games and a playoff match, what will next year’s crew be capable of? I look forward to finding out.
Thanks to all of you for supporting the blog and podcast this season. We are on track to meet our goal of donating another $20K to Ben’s Fund later this year, while also improving the quality and amount of content we are providing. It’s never too late to join our community at patreon.com/hawkblogger. We may try to organize some live events during the offseason. I wish you all a great new year, and stay tuned for draft and free agency content soon!