Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on the sidelines against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. Seattle won 12-7. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

The Seahawks are cowards on fourth down. And I’m sick of it.

The Seahawks are 5-2. But for some reason, it sure doesn’t feel like it. Oddly enough I wasn’t that upset after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. I felt the Seahawks were both outplayed and outcoached. But Pete’s interview on 710 this morning infuriated me.

I want to preface this article by noting several things, hopefully denying the opportunity for hateful comments:

  • The Seahawks have a phenomenal record to start the season. I’m super grateful and stoked about that.
  • As a noted Jason Myers supporter, I am very disappointed in his start to the season. I’m not defending him anymore. 
  • I do not want to fire Pete Carroll. He’s a phenomenal head coach and franchise executive. He may have infuriating flaws (of which I often criticize), but you probably can’t find a better replacement. End of story. 

With that said, each week we’ve watched as the Seahawks have continued to play conservative football to a fault — making late down decisions so mind-numbingly stupid (mostly on 4th down) that make me want to throw my 65 inch LG television off the patio. Believe me, I understand football can be frustrating. It’s not often a sport of black and white decision-making. There’s a whole lot of gray area. But this isn’t one of those times. 

The Seahawks are cowards on fourth down. And here are four reasons why. 

A confused identity

For a team that believes in the sanctity of “body blows”, “establishing the run”, and “pushing a mother******* a** off the line”, Seattle’s 4th down decision making reeks of cowardice. Let’s pretend for a moment that all of the running beliefs previously mentioned matter and are true. It is incredibly cowardly and fearful to refuse to run the ball down the opponents’ throat on fourth and short.

If you want to be a running football team, that is the time to run. That is the time to establish physicality and dominance over an opponent. That is the time to say: “We’re going to run the ball. Try and stop us. You won’t.” But the Seahawks don’t do that. Instead, they’re cowards and they punt the ball or kick an unreasonably long field goal in enemy territory. Instead, they turn the ball over to gain 20 yards of field position. For a team that prides itself on physical dominance, their fourth-down decision making starkly contradicts their supposed identity. 

The defense is not elite (or even good!)

The Seahawks’ conservative offensive approach is not a new thing. And frankly, there wasn’t a ton of backlash against this approach several years ago. Why? Because the Seahawks had one of the greatest defenses in NFL history for four consecutive years. The Legion of Boom could overcome many coaching failures and offensive cowardice.

But now? Not so much. These Seahawks don’t have a Legion of Boom level defense. In fact, they’re not even average. They’re below average. Here’s how they rank defensively:

  • Defensive DVOA: Ranked 18th through week 7
  • 11 sacks on the year, which ranks 26th (and they’ve only had one sack in the last 3 weeks) — and they’ve played some *horrific* offensive lines
  • Allowing 25.9 points per game, which is 12th worst
  • 7 straight games with negative EPA

Pete Carroll and the offensive coaching staff are making fourth-down decisions like they have the Legion of Boom ready to back them up. The unfortunate reality is they do not. The defense is not good. And here’s a little secret: even if they did have the Legion of Boom, punting 

(or kicking a very long field goal) on fourth and short in enemy territory would still be a cowardly decision. But at least I would understand it a bit more. 

Analytics are clear: go for it

There’s been extensive, indisputable research clarifying the immense value from being aggressive on fourth down. Ben Baldwin, a columnist at The Athletic Seattle, wrote a fantastic article on the consequences of fourth-down decision making.

“We have known this for more than a decade: David Romer, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, released a paper examining fourth-down decision-making in 2006. A new paper released earlier this year showed that the average team costs itself about a half-win per year by being too conservative on fourth down.

It’s easy to find information about when teams should go for it on fourth down. The New York Times created a bot that tells teams whether they should go for it based on field position and yards to go using their expected points model, and even published a simple chart showing when the bot recommends going for it.”

As a general rule, data scientists suggest the following

“As a rule of thumb: On fourth-and-1, go for it any place on the field where that is possible, starting at your 9-yard line. On fourth-and-2, go for it everywhere beyond your 28-yard line. On fourth-and-3, go for it almost everywhere beyond your 40.”

Not only are the analytics clear that going for it more often than not is the correct decision (*especially* in opponent territory), Russell Wilson has proven to be very good at converting fourth downs. Go for it! 

Choosing not to trust Russell Wilson

I genuinely do not care what the logic is behind choosing to punt (or kick a very, very long field goal) in enemy territory. I do not care. I don’t care if the argument is that the defense is elite or if the god of big steak burritos told you to, you are subconsciously choosing not to trust Russell Wilson. 

Russell Wilson is the league’s MVP frontrunner. He is playing out of his mind behind a very bad offensive line. On Sunday, the Ravens trusted Lamar Jackson more than the Seahawks trusted Wilson. Even if it wasn’t intentional, it was a subconscious decision. And that is sad. 

And before you retort with NFL coaches “know more” than the average fan? No, they don’t always do. The Baltimore Ravens literally hired a dude off twitter (well known in Seahawks fan circles) to conduct modern data research and interpret analytics in hopes of increasing their chances of winning. And the Ravens did just that, by following Sean’s advice to go for it on fourth down. 

Stop being cowardly. I’m sick of it. 

Staff Writer
  1. Wow! I would not label PC as a coward, even though, I have been very critical of him (warranted) for the last 2 or 3 years. I’ve been saying this for a while – he is a one-trick pony (in a good way.) He does not know how to adapt. Adaptability is a big issue for him. Maybe it has to do with his age or being too stubborn or too arrogance to change or he can’t change at all. Whatever it is, you’ll see the same picture as long as he is still around. You can make an argument that you can’t find anyone better, but if you see the same s*** all over again, and you accept it, then don’t complain. It is you, the fans, not him. Of course, the team will win 9-10 games a year, make the playoffs, and get bounced in the first round.

    Very true about not trusting RW. I think he has an inferior complex about RW. Don’t know. Maybe he was wrong about not picking him in the first place. That is one of the reasons, I’d love to see RW plays for someone else besides PC. He thinks he can win w/o RW, even though, the record does not support such belief. Last year playoff game against Dallas was a BIG signal of that feeling. When you don’t trust a future first ballot HOF qb, then you have a big issue with your own identity.

    1. I agree, but I don’t think his being a one-trick pony is a good thing at all. I think the Seahawks should have fired him two years ago! They didn’t because they wanted to keep Russell Wilson around.

      As I type this response I am watching an 11-3 (2019-20) iteration of the Seahawks get shellacked at home by a lowly (4-9-1) Cardinals team at Century Link Field.

      I have been calling for Carroll’s during for some time now, and it isn’t just the fact that he is unimaginative and wasting his star QB’s career.

      Carroll’s judgment stinks! His game-management stinks! Most of his personnel decisions are adequate at best. I believe the Seahawks would have been cellar-dwellers without Russell Wilson, even during the LOB-Lynch years.

      What did they ever accomplish before Wilson arrived?

      Besides that, Carroll’s failure to put together a decent O-Line to protect his QB borders on being criminally irresponsible. It is time for Pete Carroll to go!

  2. You’re sick of it? Dude stop jumping on the “we hate PC bc he doesn’t go for it on fourth down!” I don’t understand where this is coming from? This team has historically never done for it on fourth down with PC as coach, so why are you even surprised

  3. Great piece Evan.

    I was once swayed by Brian’s appeal that Pete brought more to the table than just coaching too. (Still love most of what you have to say Brian, but I am done with any defense of Pete.) However, I don’t think that whatever questionable leadership qualities (I say questionable because he presided over one of the biggest locker room implosions in NFL history, so maybe we are overstating his value as a leader) he possesses outweighs the job he is doing as a coach.

    Brian’s review of the Raven’s game was spot on. Seattle is a bad team and if Wilson doesn’t play at a high level, Seattle won’t win many games. Conversely, Wilson should be getting the lion’s share of the credit when he does. Other teammates, such as Carson, Dissly, Metcalf, and Lockett also contribute heavily, of course, but if Wilson is having a bad day, their contributions can’t affect the game.

    Pete didn’t design the offense and Pete doesn’t call the plays. He is not the coach of the offense.

    So, as a coach, building a football team (and by this I mean getting away from any of the culture/leadership issues), what is Pete contributing to this team? Honest question. The defense, offensive line, and special teams are all bad and his decision making is antiquated.

    I’ve heard arguments that with Wilson being paid like he is that it should all fall on Wilson’s shoulders. That’s just apologetic bs. The reason to pay a top 5 qb and a supposedly great defensive coach is because you expect that coach to be able to cobble together a decent defense and special teams with the cap space left over.

    If Seattle’s defense were playing somewhere around the top ten level, good but not elite, then I would buy the idea that with so much money going to the offense, expecting an elite defense is unreasonable.

    But the defense is poor.

    Pete is no value added at this point.

    1. Good observations. Not because you share the same sentiment, but speaking the truth. I never believe PC is a good leader. Good leaders hold themselves accountable, give credit to others for the successes and take the blame for the failures, build a high-performance team by having other competent people to support your weaknesses, build trust through honest and transparent communication, etc. It was evidence after the SB debacle. He literally threw his players under the bus. RW had to do his “job” in trying to “rebuild” the team chemistry (Hawaii trip w/ defensive players) I think for a first time, a couple of weeks ago, after the NO game I believe, when he actually acknowledged his mistakes publicly after the game.

      That said, he never leaves until he gets fired, which I don’t think will happen any time soon. Don’t know about the new ownership, and how they view him and JS. As long as they don’t get any heat from the fans and the media, then nothing will change.

    2. Honestly, Russ stopped being just too-5 two years ago. He is the league’s best QB! He doesn’t look like it because Carroll is an irresponsible, overrated coach who operates on the cheap and refuses to pay O-Linemen.

      There are recent articles with Carroll affirming that he loves close games because they make teams stronger — as if they are a part of his system — which is a load of garbage. The Seahawks are in a lot of close games because they have two true superstars carrying the team (Wilson and Wagner), talented support players with serious deficiencies (Carson fumbles too much, and Lockett is frail!), and inept coaches.

      Carroll is using some fake philosophy to cover for the fact that he really doesn’t have a clue as to what he’s doing, and he’s using blind luck in the form of #3 to justify his bad play-calling and decision-making.

      I’m not saying that #3 gets lucky; he’s all skill. But opposing teams often get UNLUCKY when playing the Seahawks. Besides, Carroll’s entire Seahawks career is luck, IMO!

      Carroll twice passed on drafting Wilson before picking him in the third round of the 2012 draft, and part of me almost wishes that another team had gotten Wilson.

      At least we wouldn’t have to watch an incompetent, overrated coach diminish (or possibly ruin) what should be one of the greatest athletic careers in American sports history!

      I will be happy when Pete Carrollnis fired! He needs to go THIS year, even if the team gets to the Super Bowl — which is extremely doubtful, even with home field advantage. The team’s road record is better than its home record.

      Sick of Pete Carroll! I’ve had enough of the inferior, unreliable product he continues to field every year.


  4. Fourth and short has been a problem for Seahawks since Walter retired. Even with Marshawn, there was no guarantee that they could convert. (Super Bowl example not given) Time was, you could run Shaun A. or most anybody’s grandma between a pair of good linemen named Jones & Hutch and get 2 yards for a new set of downs. Time was.

    Meanwhile, yeah, we got a damn fine coach with “infuriating flaws” and a head somewhere North of granite. When PC doesn’t go for it on 4th and timely, it sends a message: “I don’t believe in you guys.

    Funny thing is—ha-ha—he does believe.

  5. There’s really zero possibility of having a productive conversation with any fool that considers Pete Carroll a coward. One can say that the team’s recent draftees have failed both in kick off and punt coverage multiple times this season. One can say that Ziggy Ansah’s lone sack over seven games came on a fluke play too, especially since it came on a last play down, and the Seahawks were up by 17 points. Jadeveon Clowney’s lone sack came when he was the recipient of another fluke episode, where the quarterback he was chasing was running out of bounds anyways. Jarran Reed was supposed to have a break out season, but he came in with fresh legs during game seven, and did nothing. Poona Ford was everybody’s favorite to have a breakout season, but he’s done nothing to date.

    Yeah, lets consider firing the head coach that has:
    1) The only Super Bowl Ring in club history.
    2) Over a hundred and twenty wins, and a .593 winning percentage.
    3) He plays the hand that he is dealt.

    Pete Carroll’s NFL winning percentage (.593) is also greater than all of the following:
    1) Mike Holmgren’s .592 winning percentage, who was a run pass orientated team.
    2) Don Coryell’s .592 winning percentage, who had a vertical passing team.
    3) Bill Parcell’s .569 winning percentage, which had a defensive pass rush team.
    4) Chuck Noll’s .566 winning percentage, which alternated between old & new rules.
    5) Chuck Knox’s .558 winning percentage, and he had Curt Warner & Steve Largent!

    My point is, don’t go throwing away Pete Carroll’s entire career just because a handfull of players on the current roster haven’t lived up to their abilities just yet.

  6. Is it just me, or is it getting personal in here?

    I think every Seahawk fan is grateful to Pete for a SB win. But some of us also mourn the dynasty that could have been.

    1. When personal perspectives are at odds with the factual evidence, as cited above, it’s usually because someone instigated a conversation that they should openly apologize for. Once the open apology is done, it’s usually accepted, and life from that point usually goes on pretty good.

    2. Pete should have been gone a few years ago. I’m grateful for RUSSELL WILSON, because those Super Bowl appearances would never have happened without him. Pete Carroll is just an overrated coach getting a free ride on the back of a QB that even he didn’t evaluate properly at the draft combine. If Pete Carroll had known just how good Wilson really was, Bobby Wagner wouldn’t even be a Seahawk! Carroll and John Schneider would have drafted Wilson in the first round, leaving Wagner to be drafted by another team.

      Where do you think Pete Carroll would be right now

    3. Pete should have been gone a few years ago. I’m grateful for RUSSELL WILSON, because those Super Bowl appearances would never have happened without him. Pete Carroll is just an overrated coach getting a free ride on the back of a QB that even he didn’t evaluate properly at the draft combine. If Pete Carroll had known just how good Wilson really was, Bobby Wagner wouldn’t even be a Seahawk! Carroll and John Schneider would have drafted Wilson in the first round, leaving Wagner to be drafted by another team.

      Where do you think Pete Carroll would be right now?

  7. I agree with Evan, PC needs a reality check. He wants to have a smashmouth running game & a great D & coaches as if he does, but the reality is different. He has a great QB, sure handed receivers & overall a pretty good offense, but the D is not good. Therefore he should go for it on 4th down & short in enemy territory.. Hawks need to score 7 pts whenever that can because the opponent can score 7 at will and there is no sense in punting because our D is not good enough to win the field position battle.
    But fire PC???, NOT…. Hawks are competetive almost every game, every year, which is all we can ask for as fans.

    1. Pete has demonstrated Neolithic incompetence from the day he took the job. He is just getting lucky, and his luck has run out.

      Did you see the Seahawks-Cardinals game today?! They allowed a 4-9-1 team to manhandle them on their own field.

      Pete Carroll can’t coach! He has a system, one he did not create. Legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant created it.

      Pete Carroll cannot coach!

      Urban Meyer can coach!

      Chris Petersen can coach!

      Mike Holmgren can coach.

      Bill Cowher can coach.

      Nick Saban can coach!

      Pete Carroll is a glorified cheerleader with a canned approach that he learned from Bud Grant. He exercises poor judgment, and then uses blind luck to justify his weird decision-making.

      I am sick of watching EVERY game come down to the 4th quarter, relying on Russell Wilson to make miracles happen.

      I’m sick of watching an apathetic O-Line that clearly does not care for its QB trot onto the field every Sunday.

      Collecting money for the way they block should be considered grand larceny!

      I am sick of Pete Carroll pretending that he has an O-Line that can run block — we all know they can’t pass-block for sh*t — and parking a dm long running back behind it.

      I am sick of watching a slow defense full of players who don’t tackle! It’s not fair to Russ, the team or the fans.

      The Seahawks’ whole show is wack. If I was Russ I would demand a trade! He’s too nice and too stupid to do that, but he should.

      The Seahawks are now an 8-8 team with an 11-4 record! The “fire Pete Carroll” chorus is about to get really loud, so get used to it!

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