There is a moment in every fight training montage where the hero is falling down, feeling pain, and struggling to overcome their inadequacies. The tide eventually turns, and our hero is now sprinting up the hill, punching through the wooden beam, and beaming with confidence. We know greatness is ahead. The most difficult part of an undeniably difficult Seahawks season is they have yet to even begin their montage. Their big showdown has not been scheduled. They are more like Apollo Creed, late in his career, getting in the ring with Ivan Drago. More pain is ahead. There is no way to call the fight. The redemption will come with the next generation.
We follow sports, in part, because of the emotions they evoke. Those of us who let down our guard and ride the wave get the benefit of thrills others do not, but also agony and anger. Those emotions tend to distort reality. Right now, the truth is that Russell Wilson is not playing well. He may be playing his worst stretch of football in his career. The distortion is that he has passed through a one-way door to oblivion and is no longer a good player.
I do not believe Wilson has forever lost the ability to make simple throws he made his whole career. I do not believe he is forever an inferior quarterback to Colt McCoy or Taylor Heinieke.
There were glimpses of his former self in this game, as bad as it was. There were also some damning moments that left me wondering if he has too many different voices in his head from too many offensive coordinators over the past few years.
I don’t worry at all about the throws he sails over receiver’s heads. Those are physical errors on plays we know for certain he can make with regularity. They will get solved either with more healing or an offseason of getting his mechanics back on track.
The more troubling moments are when he forces throws downfield with players running uncovered for what would still be large gains. Wilson has always eschewed the sure yards for the chance at explosive plays. This is different. He is passing up relatively easy explosive plays (15-20 yards) for much more difficult deep shots. He is forcing throws into tighter windows while ignoring open players. Even his touchdown to Gerald Everett was a super tight window throw.
I see a player who needs someone to help him get right with his feet more than his finger. He is not throwing from a stable platform in many cases and it often looks like his lower body is dancing around in fear while his upper body is trying to make these decisions and throws.
While I was not a huge fan of Brian Schottenheimer as an OC, I do think he was the best quarterback coach Wilson has had in his career. He worked on mechanics and fundamentals. I’m just a fan, but I can see a number of mechanical issues with Wilson, and as has been the case most of his career, there is no QB coach on staff qualified to help him correct them.
As bad as he played most of the game, I respected the moxie he showed in taking the team the length of the field to score a touchdown that could have tied the game. It has been a while since we have seen Wilson do that. I sense he is getting closer to being himself again in spite of the poor play we are witnessing.
One of the most common refrains we hear from fans is that Wilson is great in the two-minute drill because he gets to call the plays and that Pete Carroll is holding him back by not allowing that to happen earlier in games. I believe that is a good observation and a flawed conclusion.
What are the hallmarks of Wilson during the two-minute drill? He throws quickly. He hits players on short passes, dump offs, and lets them run. He is more willing to scramble himself and more decisive about when to scramble. Those are all characteristics he does not show the rest of the game.
Some of that is due to the type of defenses that are played in those situations that are designed to allow quarterbacks to throw underneath and over the middle to give up shorter yardage gains and keep players inbounds to run the clock. Some of that is a mindset shift for Wilson that he and his coaches would be wise to highlight and figure out how to bring out at other points.
Even in that mode, he still took an absolutely atrocious sack that would have been bad at any point, so let’s not pretend the two-minute drill version of Wilson is a cure-all. It is the version of Wilson he needs to unlock elsewhere to extend his career and sustain a high level of play.
The era of Wilson living off moonball explosive passes is over. He cannot be the player he wants to be or give his team the success he wants if he continues to be obsessed with long developing deep throws.
I don’t want to see any more training montages of him getting in the best shape of his life. I want to see him obsessively working on the timing and touch of a screen pass, the art of coming off his deep read and making the swing pass to his back, the intermediate zone beaters.
I am not a film guru, but my sense is that teams have figured out that two-deep safety defenses make it very hard for the Seahawks to throw those deep passes, and that the throws you need to make to beat a two-deep defense are the intermediate seam throws Wilson is least confident in making. Add to that, an inability to run the football, a reluctance to make the underneath throws, and a mediocre offensive line, and you have an offense with no answers.
People hate what Carroll said in the offseason about needing to run teams out of two-deep looks. The reality is Carroll’s words have not matched the on-field actions. The one time all season they did exactly that was when Geno Smith was the QB and they came out determined to run the ball in the 3rd quarter in Pittsburgh.
Guess what? It worked. The Steelers did change their defense, bringing a safety down into the box and opening up passing options. The problem was they didn’t have the QB to take advantage of it.
This is the aggravating human aspect of the Seahawks problem. I believe they have the right coach with the right philosophy and the perfect quarterback to meld into that philosophy. Instead of enjoying the benefits of that, we are seeing a coach who has abandoned his philosophy in service of a player who is being given bad advice by people who are feeding into this notion that Wilson can do everything that Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes can do when he is a different player with different strengths and weaknesses.
I believe more and more that Wilson really does need a strong running game to bring out his best. If he cannot consistently make the throws needed to beat a two-deep defense, then he needs a running game that can pull a safety down into the box so he can then destroy them deep.
There is a general management philosophy that you should focus on your employees strengths and spend much less time trying to repair their weaknesses. It feels like the Seahawks have reached the point where they have spent years trying to make Wilson a player he is not, and have now lost sight of what made him great in the first place.
I believe Wilson will play better before the season ends. I believe he still has many very good years left in the NFL. I believe he can find his redemption right here in Seattle, but it will take truth and sacrifice on his part and far better coaching and scheme than he currently enjoys.
Carroll can be the head coach, but he has to make the running game a strength, and not just words in a press conference. That does not mean drafting another running back in the first round. It does mean making the offensive line a top priority. Seattle needs to spend money and draft picks to get that line right.
If they had their first round pick, this could be a year to address the tackle position as there are at least a couple worthy of being top ten picks. Since they do not, they will need to find a way to either buy or trade players.
This team will not be good again until their offensive line is better. That is true if they have Wilson at quarterback or someone else. The Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl had the highest paid offensive line in the league. Hard to believe given they were mostly just above average players, but they did have Pro Bowl players at left tackle and center.
I believe at some point during Wilson’s tenure, the coaching staff and front office decided a player like Wilson both allowed them to spend less on the line and made spending a lot of money unwise because he left the pocket too often and held the ball too long. It was absolutely the wrong approach, and may be the largest reason the team has suffered since.
A great offensive line lifts the whole football team. The 2005 Seahawks defense was mediocre or worse in most ways besides red zone defense, but that team should have won a ring on the strength of a terrific line. It is not realistic to expect two Hall of Fame players on the same line again, but the minimum bar should be at least two Pro Bowl level players and league average or better players at the other spots.
They likely also need a head coach or an OC who has a run scheme that works. As much disdain as many Seahawks fans have for Tom Cable, it was his zone blocking run game, paired with Lynch and that offensive line (along with Wilson’s legs) that made that run game lethal.
Rule changes have diminished that style of run game and Wilson will never be the run threat he once was. While others pine over pass-centric OCs that could help Wilson as a passer, I more and more believe a great running OC like Greg Roman would unlock more of what Wilson has to offer versus another year or two of trying to turn his weaknesses into a strength.
And while most want Carroll gone because they believe he is standing in Wilson’s way, I am more concerned that he is enabling Wilson at the cost of his team and Wilson himself. One could argue Carroll playing Wilson the last three games has possibly cost the Seahawks 1-2 wins and Wilson a lot of confidence. Geno Smith is not a good player, but this Seahawks defense deserved to see what a healthy QB could do after Wilson struggled so much.
I just don’t think Carroll has it in him to diminish Wilson in any way. The stories that came out for years about players in the Seahawks locker room being upset about how Wilson was treated relative to the rest of the team seemed so spiteful at the time, but may have been the voices of leaders speaking truth to power.
The grade for Carroll would be an emphatic Fail for this season if not for the play of the defense. He appears to have whiffed on OC, submitted to his QB by allowing him to return too soon, and made his usual set of game management errors.
The telltale sign of a coach who’s time has come is when you see the effort of players on the field drop, or you see the locker room devolve into bickering and infighting. We are not seeing that yet.
The effort is still excellent on defense. It is remarkable, really, that the group continues to fight and claw game after game while getting absolutely nothing from their offense. That is a credit to coaches and to the leaders like Bobby Wagner, Quandre Diggs, and Jamal Adams. I really do enjoy watching them play, even without any pass rush.
Sidney Jones is quietly having a strong season. Jordyn Brooks continues his up and down play, and had some great tackles in this one. Adams had another great game, and may find himself earning a Pro Bowl nod as a true safety in spite of all the jeers from Seahawks fans.
Add a pass rush to that group and you might have a top five defense. They are currently 6th in the NFL in points allowed even without the pass rush or any offensive assistance.
It is easy to paint everything with the same brush of hopelessness when things are going this poorly. That would be a mistake. The defense is absolutely playing above expectations for this season and do have pieces in place that could be here for years to come.
That matters when deciding how to rebuild this team into a contender. There are more parts here that could help contend than there were when Carroll came here in 2010.
It remains difficult to prognosticate what will happen with Carroll after this season. The idea that someone with his mindset will just retire after his worst season in Seattle feels off. He left USC on a downturn, but did so for a chance to prove himself in the NFL with the philosophy he developed while at USC. He does not strike me as the person who would just quit or retire after a season like this.
I also have explained why I think it is unlikely that ownership would fire him a year after extending him. That leaves some other job coming open that pulls him away. The USC job is filled. Maybe another college job appeals to him, but that seems like a reach at this point. The most likely outcome is that he is back as your head coach next year, like it or not.
That most likely means Wilson forces a trade. Should he do that, a team like the Giants with two top ten picks this year could be logical trade partner, and allow the team to snag a fixture at offensive tackle and a top-flight pass rusher. The hole at quarterback would have to be filled through free agency or trade until the team could find its next young player to grow with.
That is the future. We are still in the falling phase. Our losses will sting more than our victories will soothe. There is sadness where there was once elation. There is ambivalence where there was once passion. Whether we are on a Ferris Wheel that rises after the fall or a lazy river that simply finds us back where we started infinitely is up to the ownership and the front office. I am here for the ride and eager to witness the moment when the fist pierces the wooden plank once again.