Seahawks Death Week: The Case For Blowing It Up

With yesterday’s tantrum out of the way, now we can – with somewhat cooler heads – try to talk about this team rationally, and with less emotion.

This post is going to be totally useless, FYI. Total waste of time. While there absolutely IS a case to blow this team up and start anew, that’s not what’s going to happen. No one in charge of this organization wants that to happen (this team is too financially successful as is, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl). Really, no one in his right mind would look at a 12-4 team and say, “Let’s hit the reset button.” But, I’m not in my right mind! I’m mourning the end of yet another football season without a national championship. I’m angry and sad and starting to get numb to these early playoff exits. I may be spoiled, but it’s this team that’s spoiled me, so who’s more at fault?

With that in mind, I have to say that you can’t totally blow this team up. You have to pick a side: either you think we have the nucleus of players in place and it’s a matter of having a new coaching staff in there to properly guide this team to where we want it to go, or you don’t. And, if you don’t, then you want to keep the GM and coaches and have them get to work trading this nucleus (including Russell Wilson) for parts so we can rebuild from the ground up.

Both arguments are compelling. If we were dividing the fanbase up into a pie chart, my guess is the tiniest of slivers would be in favor of trading Russell Wilson and starting over on that side of the organization, probably for good reason (it’s REALLY fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback). A significant slice would be in favor of the unsatisfying status quo (keep the nucleus AND the coaches), filling in around the margins as best we can, and taking another run at it next season. And, probably the biggest slice (but it would be pretty close to the status quo slice, I bet) would be in favor of firing Pete Carroll and our offensive and defensive coordinators (and, who knows, maybe even general manager John Schneider to boot).

That having been said, the pie chart of things that are actually likely to happen would be an entire circle of the status quo, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s start with the coaches: why won’t they be fired? For starters, Pete Carroll just signed a big-money contract extension this year. The offense just set a franchise record for most points in a season. The defense was one of the best in all of football over the final eight games. The team went 12-4 and won the NFC West. Also, Pete Carroll is notoriously loyal to his guys; it takes quite a significant faceplant for him to want to fire anyone. This is a no-brainer; other than maybe an unimportant assistant/position coach here and there, no one is going anywhere.

EDIT: whoops.

Why should they be fired? Well, for all the reasons fans have been bitching about this team for the last six years! Play-calling is lacking on offense. The defensive scheme seems to be nonexistent. The 2020 Seahawks only REALLY performed against inferior units (the offense was elite in the first half against the league’s worst defenses; the defense only turned things around when going against the league’s worst offenses). Pete Carroll’s game-management has been atrocious the entire time he’s been here (wasted time outs, taking forever to get the plays called into our offense, hyper-conservative decisions on fourth downs and in plays called in general when behind the sticks), and he has failed to adjust to a changing NFL when it comes to scheme on both sides of the ball.

It would be nice to have a head coach that hewed closer to more of an analyical mindset. It’s imperative that we set up our offense to take advantage of the skillset of our best players (our quarterback and top two receivers), which also coincides with building our offensive line to be better at pass protection (when we seemingly always go after guys who are better run blockers).

As for the defense, yes we need a smarter coordinator to set us up better for success, but I think here is where our personnel department has severely failed us. The last outside pass rusher we drafted and successfully developed was Frank Clark, and he was a guy we let walk. We continually over-draft and over-pay the linebacker position (dating back to the Mike Holmgren days), when those guys are a dime a dozen. And, too often we’ve relied on homegrown secondary players (Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, etc.) and stuck with them too long in hoping they’d figure it out, to the detriment of our pass defense. And, assuming we overpay Shaquill Griffin to be just an okay cornerback (who almost never generates turnovers), that’ll be another move that ultimately backfires and hampers our salary cap.

Cap management has been abysmal ever since the L.O.B. era graduated to second (and third) contracts. Overpaying linebackers and running backs, underpaying linemen (on both sides of the ball), and ultimately being stuck with a quarterback at the top of the market who can’t do it all himself (because, news flash: NO quarterback can do it all himself; the Chiefs will learn once the talent level around Mahomes dips, particularly on the defensive side of the ball). It’s left us cash-strapped every year, unable to do much of anything with the few million dollars we manage to open up, and what we do spend it on tends to be terribly-overpriced veterans (Greg Olsen, Luke Joeckel). That forces our hand into trading away valuable high draft picks for truly impactful stars (Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap), which kicks the can down the road. Remember how the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien totally fucked themselves playing for the short-term by mortgaging their future? That’s the road we’re headed down. The more years that pass between the present and the last time we made the Super Bowl (or even the NFC Championship Game, since it was the same year), the more desperate Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be. Which will lead them to make more and more panic deals to try to win now, ultimately resulting in a long period of mediocrity if we’re not careful.

No one “wins forever” in the NFL, I don’t care who you are. It’s a fine motto, but it’s an unrealistic expectation. The chickens come home to roost at some point.

Here’s what we do know: Pete Carroll and John Schneider were at their best when they took a franchise at its nadir and turned it into the best team in the NFL (and one of the best teams of all time). The Seahawks were largely good under Mike Holmgren (with one season of relative greatness), then they fell off in 2008 and 2009. Carroll & Schneider came in prior to the 2010 season and the Seahawks won a Super Bowl in 2013.

Here’s also what we know: we haven’t won a damn thing since.

Do these guys know how to run a successful team long term? Or, are they just expert house-flippers who can only turn garbage dumps into mansions?

OR, did they just get super lucky and are actually just mediocre-at-best when they’re not continually hitting the lottery with draft picks and free agent signings?

If you believe in these guys and their ability to spot young (or underappreciated veteran) talent and cultivate it into a championship squad, then maybe you’d be in favor of a fresh start among the nucleus? Trade Russell Wilson to the Jets, get our draft picks back (plus the #2 overall selection), dump Bobby Wagner and anyone else who is old and overpaid, and start off with a fresh slate from a salary cap perspective effective 2022!

This obviously comes with the most risk. First and foremost, you have to hit on a rookie quarterback either in the 2021 or 2022 draft and hope they’re able to start immediately and produce at a high level. Then, you have to do what we did from 2010-2012: hit on elite young talent on the defensive side of the ball at key positions so that we’re ready to dominate the conference in 2-3 years. You have to hire a smart defensive coordinator and have the coaching staff in place to build these guys into winners. All while being second-guessed by the entirety of the football-following public; it’s a tall order!

As I’ll get into later this week (and, as I’ve said before), I think the Seahawks SHOULD drop Bobby Wagner and some of these other aging vets. I could also buy an argument to trade Wilson, if the return was right! Sure, he’s got another ten years in the league. Sure, he’s a proven winner and one of the best quarterbacks alive. Yes, I know what it’s like trying to 8-8 my way with a league-average guy under center. But, I also know that Wilson isn’t getting any younger. More importantly, he’s not getting any FASTER. You’ve seen what I’ve seen: he’s not escaping the breaking-down pocket as easily; these defensive linemen are catching up to him and bringing him down more often than he’s getting away and making magical things happen on the run. And, over the last few weeks, even when he HAS managed to avoid a sack, he’s converting a painfully small percentage of these sandlot throws into completions deep down field (certainly a much smaller percentage than he used to complete). Wilson is also not getting any TALLER. I never complained about his height when he was fast enough to elude defenders; but if he can’t run, and he can’t see over the crowd of linemen around him in the pocket, then how are we going to sustain drives against the league’s best defenses? How are we going to improve our third down conversions when opposing teams know we have to throw and can tee off on a turtling Wilson who succumbs to an avalanche of bodies?

Look, I’m not saying the Seahawks MUST trade Wilson. I’m not even saying I think they should. But, if they did, and the return was right, I could at least understand the argument. What is more likely: the Seahawks win a championship with the status quo, the Seahawks win a championship with Russell Wilson and a different front office, or the Seahawks win a championship with the same front office and a different quarterback?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll tell you what I believe: the REAL answer is D. None of the Above.

I don’t think the Seahawks will win a championship again with the organization as is. I think ultimately Russell Wilson will outlast Pete Carroll and John Schneider (and, obviously, the coordinators set in place), but I also don’t think Wilson will ever win another title in a Seahawks uniform. I think the Seahawks will make the playoffs plenty of times over the next decade, and our seasons will continue to end just as they have since 2015: disappointing and underachieving.

I won’t say the Seahawks will never again make another Super Bowl (I’ve learned my lesson making that guarantee), but I will say the team will look TOTALLY different from the top to the bottom the next time they do. And, if I’m ultimately proven right, then why not blow it all up now and get a jumpstart on things? What are we waiting for? To age another ten-plus years while being in the same place we are now? What’s the point of that?

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