Can Pete Carroll fix what ails the Seahawks?

The Seahawks have struggled offensively since the second half of Week 7.

There were a number of bothersome issues in the Seahawks’ disappointing loss to the New York Giants.

The Seahawks scored just one touchdown against a sub-.500 team. Russell Wilson looked jittery for fifth week in a row. The Seahawks had a very questionable game plan and Wilson and the coaches had no answer to what the Giants were doing defensively. And as Brian pointed out in his Monday column, the third quarter run defense was an inexcusable as it gets, given the Giants’ offensive limitations.

As bad as all of those were, a bigger problem has loomed over the last month and a half – and it is quite a concerning one. The Seahawks have lost their identity. From a coaching standpoint, they are getting out schemed too often & they seem caught in the middle of trying to be a pass-heavy offense while trying to simultaneously establishing the run or create balance. Some see this as a flaw of the Let Russ Cook movement. I do not. I see this as a coaching issue — and a lack of direction.

Pete Carroll’s game management is a great indicator of this. He continually talks about how he wants to be aggressive in his approach, and how the team is trying to pass the ball more on early downs. And while it is abundantly clear to any neutral observer that the Seahawks have to win this season with offense, he continually punts the ball inside the opponent’s territory on fourth downs. They are not playing to their strengths. At least when they were run heavy, they were consistent.

This is why my faith in Carroll as a good fit for THIS roster is fading. He and his staff can’t seem to evaluate his own team. Nothing was clearer of this than the Seahawks’ decision to not run the ball on 4th and inches with Chris Carson. They had a failed play action pass that the Giants saw coming from a mile away.

The first six weeks of the season were extremely positive from that standpoint. OC Brian Schottenheimer and Carroll made a significant philosophical shift in their approach, passing more than any other team in the league out of neutral situations, and running an offense that fits the strengths of their franchise player. Wilson was having a career year, looked like a lock for MVP, and DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett had emerged as the best receiver combo in the NFL.

However, since the second half of the overtime loss to Arizona in Week 7, the Seahawks started to show cracks offensively, as the league adjusted to the new offense. Arizona, Buffalo, the Giants, and the Rams all threw different looks, blitzes, and coverages to confuse Wilson, and since then, he has been nowhere near as productive. He has just four total touchdown passes in his last four games, and the Giants game plan provided more evidence that Carroll & Schottenheimer has not been able to come up with a counter punch and find a solution once teams take away the deep ball.

All of this brings me back to my initial point. What is the identity of this team Why has it become so unclear? And why aren’t all of the football decisions based around that direction?

This is a definite change from the early years of Carroll and Schneider. When the Seahawks initially built up their roster in 2010-2014, it was obvious was a clear plan and all of their personnel decisions were built on this principle. They both wanted to look like Baltimore and Pittsburgh from the previous decade – big, brash, physical,, and fast. All of their early draft picks, signings were built around this principle. Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, and Kam Chancellor were uniquely big at defensive back, Earl Thomas was perfect for the Ed Reed/Troy Polamalu role. They traded for the most bad ass running back they could find. They wanted linemen that were more ass kickers than technically proficient. It all fit together. They obviously couldn’t maintain a talent base like that, but somewhere this was lost. Maybe it was the Jimmy Graham or the idea of building around grit, but from a football standpoint, there is not a consistent approach in this regard.

If you wanted to be a team truly built around Wilson, then why are they punting so much to play for field position? If you want to play for field position and defens, then why ignore so many pass rushers in free agency? The Chiefs are the best example of this. It is clear how they are trying to win and its personnel decisions reflect that. They continue to add pass catching weapons on a yearly basis. They brought in Sammy Watkins as a free agent, drafted Mecole Hardman last year, and then even brought in a pass-catching running back in the first round in 2020, despite upsetting all of the analytic nerds. It was designed to fit Reid/Mahomes. The same can be said for the team building of the Buffalo Bills under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane over the last three years.

I just keep coming back to this. If they wanted to alter their offensive identity, and make this the primary approach of the football team, then why not build a team that’s built to do that? They had multiple opportunities to add to their arsenal of weapons, given the dip in productivity once Lockett got injured in the second half of last season. They had multiple chances to pluck a top WR in arguably the best WR class in year to pair with DK, and Tyler, and instead, they picked an off-ball LB and and traded up for an injured pass rusher. While Jordyn Brooks is a good prospect, and Darrell Taylor has a ton of upside, there just didn’t seem to be any vision in how their building the team. They could have definitely used another good receiver, or a better pass catching running back to fit this style.

The Seahawks are no longer dictating the terms. They are reacting. They went base heavy last year to adjust for the success of the Rams and 49ers. This year, you can argue their approach was the same. Again, this isn’t designed to nitpick their draft or their offseason, but it all fits together. Even watching an undermanned team like the Giants, they looked very clear in this area. It’s why Joe Judge has done such a good job this season.

For the first six weeks of the season, I thought Carroll had warranted coach of the year consideration. He had a clear plan from his coaching staff, he was more aggressive on game days with fourth down calls (the DK Metcalf play in the Atlanta game is a perfect example of this), and the team was succeeding as a result – even with a historically bad defense. He played to his teams strengths. Now Carroll doesn’t seem to know what his team’s strengths are. On top of that, his old game day tendencies are returning. He was as lost as I’ve ever seen him in Sunday’s post-game presser, and looked like a boxer that took too many hits in a fight.

This is Year 3 since Carroll and Schneider reset the organization following the 2017 season. By now, they were ready to compete for a Super Bowl, and while this seemed to be the case early in the season, which was such an encouraging sign, they have reverted back and look exactly like what ailed them in 2017. And this time, they don’t have injuries to blame. That team started 8-4 and fell apart in the last month of the season. The Seahawks in 2020 are 8-4 and just had their worst regular season loss in years.

As Michael Lombardi constantly says on his GM Shuffle podcast, the job of a head coach is to be a chief fixer upper. He needs to be the one to determine a problem and a legitimate solution with Wilson and the offense. Why are other teams coming up with creative schemes to stop Wilson, but the Seahawks coaches aren’t coming up with another creative to dictate with their personnel?  That will help them as much as anything if they want to salvage what looks like another playoff early exit. If they continue to be lost between a bunch of different ideas, they will absolutely fail in the playoffs. And maybe earlier than some like.

This is on Carroll and his staff to get right.

  1. I would add that it’s also on Russ. He had wide open receivers and tight ends running short and middle routes, and he held the ball while looking for deep receivers who were covered by the 2 deep zone. These plays ended up as throwaways, drive-ending sacks, and one grounding call. I would argue that Russ was responsible for many of our failed drives by refusing to throw to clearly open receivers. I think about Drew Brees and the way that he hits his drop, makes the read (or reads) and gets the ball out. Quick and accurate, with literally no wasted steps. Then I think about Russ’s happy feet in the Giants game. So, so many wasted steps and wasted downs.

  2. Wilson has to take what the defense gives him. If the defenses are going 2 safeties deep, then run the ball or get it out to Dissly. There’s no excuse for holding the ball as long as he’s doing.

  3. Get Russ out of the kitchen! Dont get into these 3rd and long situations. Russ is sick and.or distracted by extra curricular activities. Time to lock down focus for the long haul. WR getting frustrated, no eye contact after failed Russ pass or missed wide open players. Problems brewing

  4. Wilson is still an elite QB but is showing signs of mental fatigue and loss of vision – either by his own inability to check down or sprint for yards when given or extra curricular endeavors that take mental energy away from a profession that requires laser focus and repetition daily. I am hoping the Giants game is a wake up call to him because the Seahawks will go nowhere without scoring heavy in the playoffs. The defense is getting better but then will be completely lost on key plays in every game…there is zero excuse for this other than a defensive scheme which is too complex for ALL the players to pick up in time. Adams is incredible, but not in coverage. I hope he continues to improve and I think he will. This team will make the playoffs, but will not go far unless decisions are made faster on both sides.

  5. I’m encouraged that others are seeing these things especially Russell’s lack of focus and or mental energy which I attribute to too much extracurricular activities. I’ve posted on this many times after the Giants loss. Here are just a few things I’ve heard about with Russell in the past three weeks. Trademarks Let Russ Cook, clothing and perfume line launch with Ciara, ownership of the Sounders, efforts to bring NBA back to Seattle, his podcast and other appearances, discussions on the potential for him to be an owner of the Seahawks, numerous new advertising contracts and campaigns…what might have I missed. The sad thing is Pete Carroll and the Seahawks team Psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais have a joint venture in Create to Compete which started out as Win Forever. THis was a sports centered consultancy staffed with Olympians and World Champions and sold the notion of the champion singular focus and craft perfecting ideology. I’ve worked with both of them and have taken their corporate training numerous times. The concepts are very sound and backed by data and science. The core of this is that in order to reach that level of performance (Olympian) an athlete has to dedicate his time, mind, body to their sport. Easy enough to see this if you ever followed such athletes and those that have fallen. Tiger Woods is the first that comes to mind…there are others especially in Olympic sports. SO it’s rather perplexing that Pete hasn’t seen this and hasn’t taken any actions to get Russell to make needed changes. I realize there isn’t much Pete can do in controlling Russell’s “FREE TIME”. But there needs to be a conversation about this between the two…maybe it’s happened…but I see Pete as not stepping up to the challenge in having those tough conversations with his star.

    1. Russell needs to stop doing his podcast and just play football. Like why are you interviewed Mike Effing Tyson for an HOUR on the Wednesday before a game? That kind of interview takes serious prep. What are you doing??

  6. Bring back. Dan Quinn. For Dc
    Ken Norton has know clue of
    How to call the right Defense! It starts with him
    Also they need to come up with more Trick plays

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