What Is The Best Case Scenario For The 2024 Seahawks?

I’m on record as not being very excited about this year’s Seahawks team. I don’t think they’ll be bad, but they’re also probably not much better than 9-8 or 10-7. But, what’s the ceiling for this team? What happens if the defensive line dominates like we think it can? What happens if the offense takes to Ryan Grubb’s scheme like gangbusters? What’s the absolute peak for this team?

I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me to really give this thought experiment my all, because I truly don’t believe in it. I don’t think it’s crazy for this team to be better than people expect. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for the Seahawks to fly under the radar a little bit, and squeak into the playoffs. But, I just can’t envision a scenario where this team is a bona fide Super Bowl contender.

There are too many factors going against us. The new coaching staff, first and foremost. When have we ever seen a team revamp their entire coaching staff and immediately make a championship run? It’s always, you know, building a foundation, building a culture, and in maybe 2-4 years finding yourself in the big game.

Then, if you just go through this roster, there’s lots of nits to pick. At the top, you’ve got the offensive line. It might be cripplingly bad. Or, it might be what it was last year, when it prevented this team from doing much of anything other than a quick passing attack and hoping Kenneth Walker busted some big runs. Regardless, it won’t be a strength, and that limits you tremendously.

Who are the linebackers, and are they going to be worth a damn? Are they going to fill holes, stop the run, and limit the intermediate passing attack? How good is this secondary, really? And, of course, we’re perfectly mediocre at quarterback, the most important position on the field.

But, really, the most damning thing is this team’s lack of studs. Maybe you like the wide receivers and running backs, but those guys are entirely dependent upon the quarterback and offensive line. Who are the studs on defense? You hope Byron Murphy is, but he’s a rookie. Leonard Williams is a solid DT, but he’s not a game-wrecker. Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu are fine outside linebackers, but they’re not the best of the best. Devon Witherspoon is exciting, but he’s also like the tiniest man on the team.

Now, look at San Francisco. Look at Detroit. Look at Dallas and Philly and the Packers and even the Rams. Do the Seahawks have the studs that those teams have? No way. Not even close.

If we’re looking at best case scenario, I still think we’re talking about maybe an 11-win team. That’s not nothing, of course. That would’ve tied for the fourth-best record in the NFC last year with the Eagles, one game behind the Niners.

Best case, I think the Seahawks split with the Rams and 49ers, while sweeping the Cardinals. That’s a respectable 4-2 record in the division, that MIGHT be good enough to nail some tiebreakers. I think you have to hope two of the other losses come against the AFC, just to give yourself a fighting chance with conference tiebreakers; I’m looking at losing two of three to the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets. That gives you one other conference loss to play around with, be it the Lions, Packers, Bears, or Falcons. Everyone else – the Broncos, Patriots, Giants, and Vikings – you should be expected to beat.

Can the Seahawks do that? Can they go 4-2 in the division, lose 2 to the AFC, and go 3-1 against the other middling NFC teams, all while winning the games you’re supposed to win? In a vacuum, that seems reasonable.

And if it does happen, there’s no bigger indictment of the last 8 or so years of the Pete Carroll regime. And especially the last two years. Because they would have done that with largely the same roster.

Seems like a tall order, though. What’s impossible is anything BETTER than 11-6. Conceivably, I could see that winning a division, if the 49ers fall back to Earth a little bit. But, it’s almost assuredly a 3 or 4 seed, which is nothing at all. Certainly not good enough to make a deep playoff run.

What Is This Seahawks Defensive Line Going To Look Like With Byron Murphy?

There’s really two questions built into the one overarching question posed in the title. First of all: what is Byron Murphy’s ceiling, both in year one, and overall? And secondly, what is the ceiling of the 2024 incarnation of the Seahawks’ defensive line?

What we’re hoping for is that Byron Murphy is one of those highly impactful interior defensive linemen that can wreck a game, and otherwise needs ample resources devoted to stopping him. There are a couple of different ways to look at that. Is he Aaron Donald (or, at least, an Aaron Donald Type, who is great from the moment he steps onto the field) or is he Geno Atkins (who didn’t do much his rookie year, before developing into a steady Pro Bowler – and occasional All Pro – when he was healthy, in year two and beyond)? That’s going to make a big difference on the outlook of this season.

I don’t think anyone would complain if Murphy turned into an Atkins type of player in year two, but obviously it would be disappointing to not get much from him as a rookie. Because, if he can fulfill his potential earlier rather than later, there’s a lot of talent around him to really get this thing going.

We’ve got Leonard Williams, who is not at his peak, but is still playing at prime levels (though, obviously, every year going forward has a chance to be worse than the one before it; he is going into his age 30 season, after all). We’ve got Jarran Reed, who really had a fantastic year last year and harkened back to his very best days as a Seahawk. We’ve got Dre’Mont Jones, who is on a big money contract, and is looking to bounce back from a pedestrian showing in 2023; I have no doubt he’s still got the goods, but he just needs to be utilized correctly (which was never going to happen under Clint Hurtt & Co.). We’ve got very good outside pass rushers in Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe (Nwosu had 9.5 sacks in 2022 before being injured last year; Mafe had 9.0 sacks in his second season as a pro, and is looking to take the next step in his development into potential stardom). We’ve got Darrell Taylor heading into a contract season (who has 21.5 sacks across three years, and is certainly capable of being a menace on the outside). And, we’ve got a lot of potentially-promising young talent in Derick Hall, Cam Young, and Mike Morris, who might never amount to anything, but could always surprise us.

Even discounting the unproven guys on this roster, there’s still a TON of talent here, potentially capable of rushing the passer like nothing we’ve ever seen before. And, with the new scheme, and the influx of Murphy, they should be better able to stop the run than they’ve been the last few years.

The thing is, this defensive line could be an All Time Great Unit if Murphy turns out to be elite from the get-go. It should still be really good even if he isn’t there yet, but obviously, it would be a lot cooler if he ends up being worth the pick of being the top DT in this draft class.

Of course, I say that, but how true is it really? If Murphy is Just A Guy, how is this D-Line any different than it was a year ago? Well, I’m putting A LOT of the heavy lifting on Mike Macdonald and this coaching staff and scheme. I think having Leonard Williams all the way through, with a full year of Nwosu, and positioning Dre’Mont Jones more on the outside where he can have a bigger impact in setting the edge, while still being able to rush the passer, will all translate to better production as a whole.

Like I said, though, if it takes Murphy a year to get going, it’s not the end of the world. Does anyone expect these 2024 Seahawks to win the division or make the Super Bowl? If you do, you probably need to adjust your thinking. The 49ers are still the class of the division. The Cowboys and Eagles are still very good. The Lions and Bears and even the Packers are probably in better spots than we are right now. And, for as dysfunctional as the Falcons are as an organization, regardless of who they have at quarterback, they still have a lot of talent on that roster.

But, what I’m excited about more than anything is having Murphy learn from guys like Williams and Reed and Jones. From just a mentor standpoint, I don’t know if it gets a lot better than those guys. He doesn’t necessarily HAVE to be The Man from day one. There are not just veterans, but established and talented veterans ahead of him, who can guide him on how to be a pro, and to be a pro the right way. So, when he eventually does have to slide into being The Man, he’ll be ready that much faster to take over.

Suffice it to say, I’m pretty excited to see what this defense is going to look like. The inside linebackers are a huge question mark, and there isn’t a ton going on at safety. But, with a solid defensive line, and with our talent at cornerback, combined with a proper scheme that should put these guys in better positions to succeed, I don’t think there’s any question the defense can be middle-of-the-pack or better.

The Seahawks Had An Unexciting Draft This Year

It’s interesting to go through the years – dating back to 2010, because I’m less into the idea of going back to the wild west days and trying to decipher a through-line – and see where things went right and where they went wrong. Obviously, the 2010-2012 drafts were epic and life-changing. But, there’s a real argument to be made that every single draft since then has been a failure.

Just scroll through this. Let’s leave 2022-2024 out of it, because there’s just not enough information to make a sound judgment in such a short period of time. But, 2013-2021? I think Seahawks fans with rose-colored glasses will say there have been peaks and valleys in our draft classes in this span. 2013 was pretty miserable and I don’t think anyone can really defend it at this point. But, if you want to think positively, you can say they’ve consistently found role players, contributors, and even starters.

In 2014, they got an offensive line starter in Justin Britt; in 2015, there was Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. In 2016, there’s Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed; in 2017, there’s Ethan Pocic and Shaquill Griffin. In 2018, you’re looking at Michael Dickson and Will Dissly; in 2019 there’s D.K. Metcalf. You could say 2020 was the start of a rebound by this organization, with guys like Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Damien Lewis rounding things out; but, also, almost this entire class is on other teams, and the three picks in 2021 produced absolutely no one.

Not a lot of second contracts in Seattle among this bunch. Lockett, Metcalf, and Dickson are the three greatest Seahawks draft picks since 2013. Everyone else were just role players, or able bodies who ate up an offensive line spot. But, no one has really flashed. No one has stood out. It’s all been pretty middling talent, which has led to middling results for this team.

I’m willing to believe in the 2022 and 2023 classes, because I think there’s a lot of meat on the bone. Charles Cross can still be great. Boye Mafe really took a big step in year two. Kenneth Walker is a fuckin’ stud. Abe Lucas, when healthy, can be a beast. Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen can be ball hawks in the right scheme. Devon Witherspoon clearly has All Pro type talent. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be amazing if he’s unleashed in the right offense. Derick Hall has the body type to do great things, Zach Charbonnet flashed true elite greatness as a rookie, Anthony Bradford could be a mauler at guard, Cam Young and Mike Morris could be big bodies in a solid D-Line rotation, and Olu Oluwatimi figures to be in a battle for this year’s starting center job as a fifth round pick in his second season. That’s a lot of potential greatness just waiting to be unleashed by the right coaching staff.

But, then again, we’ve already seen the writing on the wall that many of these guys could be busts. Should it really take a left tackle in Charles Cross 3+ years to develop into a star? Shouldn’t that guy enter the league ready to take it by storm? You’ve got two second-round running backs in there, a devalued position that’s frequently getting itself injured. Speaking of injuries, Lucas appears to have a chronic knee issue, and it can only be a matter of time before Witherspoon – with the way he attacks players with reckless abandon – plays himself out of the league a la Jamal Adams. If Kam Chancellor had to retire early due to medicals, what makes you think some tiny dude like Witherspoon is going to last very long into a second contract? JSN sure looked pedestrian for his rookie season as the #1 receiver drafted; Mafe and Hall could both be one-trick ponies unable to set an edge or play at all against the run. There’s whispers about Woolen’s toughness and ability to stay healthy; I could go on and on picking these draft classes apart.

The thing is, I really want to believe in John Schneider. I want to believe it was Pete Carroll putting his foot down and leading to the worst personnel decisions of the last decade. But, I dunno. The last three draft classes – including this one that took place over the weekend – have had decidedly different feels compared to the ones that came before. It’s really felt like a Best Player Available festival, which is a strategy I hold near and dear to my heart. But, if we proceed to spend the next 3-5 years finishing at or around .500, without any real charge towards Super Bowl contention, then I think it will be pretty obvious that this front office doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing any more than any other front office, and 2010-2012 will be seen as flukes more than anything else.

***

That’s a lot of preamble – and a negative one at that – to get to what I actually thought was a pretty smart draft by the Seahawks. If there’s ever going to be a draft that seriously turns things around for this franchise, it’s going to be one that features a lot of bulk along the line of scrimmage, and absolutely nothing with any of the skill positions.

What have we been complaining about for years? Even during the Super Bowl years, what were we after? Elite defensive tackles who can rush the passer and be a force in the middle against the run. From 2013-2019, we drafted 12 guys who were either DT’s or plus-sized DE’s who we wanted to slide inside on passing downs; those were all some of our greatest busts. Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Naz Jones, Jesse Williams, Demarcus Christmas; the list goes on and on. Jarran Reed was the only guy worth a damn in that bunch, and even he wasn’t worth it – in the minds of this front office – to spend on that second contract he received. Defensive tackle has been a fucking wasteland for this franchise, and if it wasn’t for Michael Bennett sliding inside during the glory years, we’d be talking about spanning multiple decades of futility.

So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about Byron Murphy. I’m also justifiably reserved in my excitement, because while it’s great to say we got the best all-around defensive lineman in this class, you also can’t deny that we got him with the 16th pick. The NFL deemed 15 other guys better than him. I know a lot of those teams had more pressing needs – mostly on the offensive side of the ball, what with the first 14 picks going that way – but if there was a true juggernaut, no-doubter of a defensive behemoth ready to plug-and-play as a future All Pro and maybe even Hall of Famer, there’s no way that player would’ve fallen to 16. You think Will Anderson – had he left for the NFL this year – would’ve been there for us? Or Aidan Hutchinson, or Chase Young, or Nick Bosa, or Quinnen Williams? I don’t think so.

I think the odds are a lot better that Byron Murphy was the best of a very weak defensive line class, than he’s a future game-wrecker in the mold of Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. He’ll probably be good, but I’m not holding my breath waiting around for him to be great. As long as he’s not a fucking turd like just about every other defensive tackle we’ve drafted in the last decade, I’ll be happy.

One of the big problems with this draft is how it laid out for the Seahawks. This was a top-heavy draft, with an extremely thin bunch of players in Day 3. If ever there was a draft to select your next punter, kicker, or even long-snapper, this was the one. And, unfortunately for us – when all was said and done – only two of our eight picks were in the first three rounds, where the odds were best we’d actually find useful players. Even though we traded down once – at the top of the fourth round, to get an extra sixth, I think – we didn’t have any sort of capital to make the kinds of moves necessary to give us back the second rounder we lost in the Leonard Williams deal. Had we traded out of 16, we likely would’ve missed out on the last remaining true impact players. Would that have been worth a pick in the mid-20’s and mid-50’s? Probably not.

So, instead, we stuck at 16, took the best player available, and had a LOOOOOONG wait until pick 81 in the third round.

Where we took Christian Haynes, a quality guard who figures to start right away, and might even convert to center, to give us more beef at that spot than we’ve had since Max Unger. I don’t know how good a lineman is from UConn, but draftniks seem to like him, so that’s good enough for me.

I hear the inside linebacker we got from UTEP in the fourth round, Tyrice Knight, is more of a project than a guy we can plug and play. I’m assuming we missed out on the linebacker we actually wanted, and settled for this guy because that was a particular need (one of the few instances where we probably went away from our BPA strategy). I don’t expect Knight to be much of anything.

I also don’t expect much out of our other fourth rounder, A.J. Barner, tight end out of Michigan, but for very different reasons. I actually like the pick, because it sounds like he’s one of the better blocking tight ends in this class, and that was certainly a position of need. If we can get tougher at that position, I’m all for it, because it’s almost like drafting another lineman. He’s probably NOT the stone-hands catcher we’re all imagining, but he’s also not going to drastically improve this offense with his receiving. But, if he opens up holes in the running game, and gives our quarterback a little extra time to make a throw, he’s exactly the kind of tight end I want on my roster.

With our last four picks, we took two cornerbacks from Auburn, and two more offensive line projects. It certainly seems strange to invest so heavily in cornerback depth, when there’s no realistic way we can keep all these guys on our roster (Witherspoon, Woolen, Brown, Jackson, the two rookies, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant (unless we’re still turning him into a safety)), but maybe we’re looking to wheel and deal during training camp. Or, maybe some hard cuts are a-comin’. Either way, until further notice, guys like Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James are just camp fodder, and probably practice squad-bound, unless they really stand out as special teamers.

As for the O-Line projects, we got a widebody from Utah named Sataoa Laumea, and some no-name guy from Findlay who goes by Michael Jerrell. Laumea, by all accounts, is the more interesting of the two, as he could conceivably have a shot at contending for a starting spot. Jerrell might as well already be on the practice squad, but I’m not going to hold that against him.

We took three offensive linemen in this draft, that’s not lost on me. I think that’s a huge development for this team. Not that they’ve neglected the O-Line, necessarily. They’re always taking bites at the apple. But, they’ve also failed so miserably for so long, while getting by with middling production from guys on rookie deals. It’s nice to see they haven’t given up. There’s a way to build this unit up from the draft; other teams do it all the time. You need your foundational guys like Charles Cross to pan out, but you also need your mid-rounders like Lucas and Haynes and Bradford and Laumea to develop in a hurry and take the world by storm. I want to be the team that’s the envy of fans across the league. I want them to look at the Seahawks and think, “How do they keep finding these diamonds in the rough later in the draft?!” It’s nice to do it at cornerback and wide receiver, but when you can do it on the O-Line, you’ve really got something.

Half of this draft went to the line of scrimmage; when you throw in a primarily blocking tight end, and an inside linebacker who’s going to have to attack that LOS on the regular, that’s 3/4 of your draft going to the most important non-quarterback spots on the team. If we’re ever going to turn this thing around, it’s either going to be by finding another transcendent quarterback, or by killing it everywhere else. Since we’re bound and determined to ignore QB in the draft every fucking year, then we’ve gotta start putting in work on Plan B. Devoting the bulk of your draft to the LOS, while signing Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, and bringing back George Fant to be offensive tackle depth, is a great start to that process.

Now, let’s check back in three years and see if this class – and any of the others that came before it – are worth a damn.

Worst-Kept Secret: The Broncos Are Cutting Russell Wilson

There’s no doubt about it: the Seahawks won the Russell Wilson trade with the Broncos. If you ONLY count the players involved, we’re talking about the two worst seasons in Wilson’s career, and a 4th round defensive lineman who underwhelmed as a rookie and was suspended for gambling in year two. That was the haul for Denver.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, got something of a mixed bag in return, but still unquestionably the better of the situation.

On the plus side, we got to draft Devon Witherspoon, who looks like a potential star in this league. We also got a starting left tackle in Charles Cross, and a likely starting outside linebacker in Boye Mafe. Mafe had 3 sacks as a rookie, and made the leap to 9 sacks in year two, looking like a very promising pass rusher.

In the middle, we got two very competent seasons out of tight end Noah Fant and we had a somewhat capable backup quarterback in Drew Lock. Both are free agents at the moment, so we’ll see if the team opts to bring either of them back.

On the down side, we got one so-so season out of Shelby Harris before cutting him (this was a season where our run defense was extremely poor), we have sort of a wild card in outside linebacker Derick Hall (who didn’t seem to develop like people had hoped as his rookie season wore on), and we drafted Tyreke Smith in the 5th round in 2022 (who spent his entire rookie seaon injured, and his entire second season on the practice squad before being claimed by the Cardinals in December).

Like I said: a bit of a mixed bag. But, the three “hits” obviously outweigh all the misses down below, and you’re not going to be 100% on moves like this. Frankly, this outcome is probably as good as we could’ve hoped for.

Where the almighty bullet was dodged, however, is avoiding the long-term ramifications of choosing Russell Wilson over Pete Carroll and/or John Schneider.

As always, it’s not totally black and white. Obviously, Pete Carroll isn’t here anymore after two 9-win seasons sans Wilson. BUT, also obviously, the Seahawks don’t have to reckon with a 5-year, $242.6 million contract that is just kicking in THIS YEAR, which boggles the mind. In 2023, Wilson’s Seahawks contract just ran out, which is absurd to think about. A guy who was so highly coveted, couldn’t even make it to Year One of his new deal.

That’s $85 million in dead money, spread out over 2024 and 2025. The Broncos had a brand new regime in 2022, then fired everyone for Sean Payton in 2023. Presumably, Payton will have something of a longer leash to try to turn things around, but it seems like the next two years are going to be a challenge. It’s hard to really try to bottom out and still keep your job, but also that’s probably what’s necessary (trade players for draft picks, go with a super youth movement, then try to bounce back in 2026 in free agency).

Can you imagine what the Seahawks would be doing right now, with that kind of Russell Wilson contract on the books? For starters, I don’t know if we’d be talking about cutting him and eating that kind of dead money. It’s interesting to imagine where this team would be – and what we might’ve accomplished the last two years – with Wilson still in the fold. Considering our shabby draft positioning thanks to the Jamal Adams trade, I have to believe we would’ve been considerably worse the last two years!

Now, the questions are: where will Russell Wilson end up next, and will he be able to resuscitate his career?

There are plenty of dimwits who wonder if the Seahawks might bring him back. He is, after all, poised to earn the veteran minimum (thanks to offsets built into his Broncos deal; any new money paid to him only helps his former team). But, why would the Seahawks put themselves through that? Geno Smith hasn’t been a world-beater the last two years, but he’s still been better than Russell Wilson. And I’m sure that Wilson would prefer to go somewhere with a more-established offensive identity (rather than the Seahawks, who are breaking in a lot of young/first-time NFL coaches).

I would find it extremely curious what the Vikings end up doing, particularly if Kirk Cousins moves on to Atlanta or wherever. The Vikings have two terrific wide receivers who can go get deep balls, and a top-tier offensive line that should be able to accommodate Wilson’s lack of mobility. Paying a guy like Wilson the minimum might help them offset the cost of extending Justin Jefferson for what is sure to be the highest wide receiver contract in NFL history.

Regardless of where Wilson ends up, it’s fascinating to see how the narrative has shifted. In the beginning of his Seahawks tenure, he was just a game manager behind an elite run game and defense. As time went on, and he used his magic to pull our asses out of more and more fires, Wilson was properly rated as among the best quarterbacks in the game. Then, as the Seahawks stagnated later in his tenure here, it was the coaching staff and offensive scheme that was holding him back, until he finally forced his way out. Then, in his first year in Denver, Wilson’s struggles were chocked up to Nathaniel Hackett and his poor performance as the head coach. When even the great Sean Payton couldn’t change Wilson’s fortunes, it was time for everyone to admit that maybe Wilson was cooked, and the Seahawks were never to blame for his inability to get over the hump into a proper MVP conversation.

But, does anyone really have to be to blame?

Wilson’s last truly great year was in 2020. But, even then, you could see the writing on the wall. That Seahawks team ended up winning the NFC West, which was nothing new for Russell Wilson in his time here. But, in the L.O.B. days, Wilson was the perfect complement for an elite defense. In the immediate post-L.O.B. days, Wilson ended up compensating for a lot of holes elsewhere on the roster. But, by 2020, those holes weren’t quite as dramatic. And, Wilson was actually starting to be more of the problem than the solution. He threw 8 of his 13 interceptions in our four regular season losses (13 INTs being the most for him in any one season), and added one more for good measure in our playoff loss at home to the Rams. He mopped the floor with the league through five games, then suffered a massive mid-season lull (costing us 3 of 4) before having the reins pulled back by season’s end. The home playoff defeat should have been his final go in Seattle, but we stuck with him for one more year before pulling the trigger with the Broncos.

This is what happens. Quarterbacks age, and eventually they play themselves out of the league. As it turns out, given Wilson’s limitations, he probably was never destined to play into his 40’s like he’d hoped. I’m not ready to say his time has come to an end in the NFL, because I’d like to see what he’s still capable of with a competent coaching staff who actually WANTS him on their team. I think he’s still accurate enough – and has a strong-enough arm – to bounce back and be a productive mid-tier QB. But, an MVP is out of the question, and I’m guessing so is another Super Bowl appearance.

Other than the Vikings, I wonder what he’d look like in a Browns uniform. Could he also compete for a job with the Giants? And what if the Falcons pass on Cousins? There’s a lot of talent down in ATL, that’s going to make some veteran quarterback’s job pretty easy.

I feel like his worst-case scenario is going to Tennessee or Vegas. The Titans are truly bottom-of-the-barrel talent-wise, and the Raiders seem fairly unstable at the moment (I don’t know if I believe they’re going to commit to their erstwhile interim head coach longterm). After that, it’s probably settling for any number of backup jobs.

As for my personal feelings on the matter, I think I’m coming around again. When he was with Denver, I was all too happy to root against him. I wasn’t thrilled with the way things ended in Seattle, and his personality quirks started to rub me the wrong way. But, now that he’s a free agent, I’m still happy to laugh at the Broncos’ misfortunes, but I’m also starting to feel sorry for Russ. For all his faults, he’s still a good-enough guy, and he did play during our greatest era of Seahawks football. There are still so many wonderful memories with him behind center.

I’m rooting for the Russell Wilson comeback! It won’t be in Seattle, but that’s okay. He can’t hurt us anymore.

What’s More Important For The Seahawks: Scheme Or Talent?

You know what’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around? The Seahawks under Pete Carroll – for multiple years in a row – had the best defense in the NFL. They drafted well, they developed well, they hit on some free agents, and they had a scheme that put it all together, worked to everyone’s strengths, and was a menace for opposing offenses to play against.

Then, for many years after that – still under Pete Carroll – the Seahawks were among the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Same coach, ostensibly the same scheme, yet for whatever reason nothing was working, no matter how many resources we poured into that side of the ball.

Well, the simple argument there is that TALENT is more important. When this team had multiple All Pros and future Hall of Famers, they were amazing; when they lost all those guys, the Seahawks were crummy.

But, I keep coming back to this post, and the point I made about every team that was worse than us defensively in 2022 were LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than us in 2023. We’re looking at the Lions, Vikings, Texans, Bears, Raiders, and Falcons. Other than the Texans drafting Will Anderson, there really wasn’t much help for any of those teams. I know the Bears made some trade deadline deals, but I don’t know if there was a ton of influx among those teams. Certainly not a ton of big names! I’m willing to wager there was a lot of talent-holdover from 2022 to 2023; yet some significant improvements were made!

That has to be scheme, right? Yes, the L.O.B. had a unique scheme – Cover 3 – that not a lot of other teams were utilizing the way we were. But, eventually, teams started to hone in on routes to defeat Cover 3. Sure, the talent declined, but also the scheme got stale, and the combination of that really did us in.

It never felt like the Seahawks took that next step – made that next adjustment – to fight back against what offenses were doing against them. They had their mantras: don’t get beat deep, focus on stopping the run. But, that just left a wide swath of the middle of the field wide open, and our softer coverages were incredibly beatable.

There’s talent on this defense. Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, and Tre Brown are all good to great. Jordyn Brooks continually shows you why he was deemed a first round talent. Nwosu, Mafe, Leonard Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Julian Love; there are and were DUDES on this side of the ball. In spite of their age, there’s a lot guys like Quandre Diggs and Bobby Wagner can bring to the table; on the flipside, I’d like to think there’s more we could be getting out of Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall. We don’t have that one huge defensive line pass rush monster, but then again, do the Falcons or Vikings? Are the guys on the Raiders or Bears THAT much better than our guys?

Or, did those teams and respective coaches scheme their guys up to play better than their overall talent might otherwise indicate?

I watch a good amount of football, not just Seahawks games. Yet I never really see other teams play quite like we do. Every fucking week, it’s like we get bled dry on defense. Teams picking us apart, getting easy completions, rarely seeing any sort of consistent pressure. Oh sure, the Seahawks will pick it up against inept offenses. But, if you’re even remotely competent, you’re going to have a pretty easy time moving up and down the field and scoring points.

Carolina, with Andy Dalton, should not be able to generate 378 yards and 27 points, I’m sorry! The Steelers, on their second offensive coordinator and their third quarterback, should not be able to come into your house and get 468 yards and 30 points! This isn’t getting routed by the Ravens, or the Cowboys not punting once. These are TERRIBLE offenses moving the football at will, on the road, in one of the loudest environments in the NFL.

Which is why I was so excited to hear that Mike Macdonald is planning on calling the defense, at least at first. I have zero doubt whatsoever that we could bring back exactly the same D as 2023 and see vastly superior results, just with the change in scheme.

What have we heard so often from players who left Seattle for other teams? Especially the defensive linemen: the Seahawks don’t let you do anything. They’re more worried about plugging gaps than they are about getting up field and making plays on the quarterback. They’re so concerned about giving up anything over the top that they play hyper-conservative and welcome teams taking the underneath stuff. The only problem with that is when they DO take that underneath stuff. It makes converting on third down easier, it makes avoiding third downs entirely easier, and inevitably your team is going to make some mistakes causing you to give up a deep ball or two anyway.

And what have we heard about Mike Macdonald? That he’s cerebral. That he studies tape more than anyone. That he’s the most prepared guy on the team, who’s going to find your weakness and exploit it. He’s going to make the offense’s job miserable. And that, in turn, is going to lead to more sacks, more turnovers, and doing it all with less blitzing.

Sure sounds like the scheme can be awfully important! I mean, I’d love more than anything to have that nice cross-section of both; who doesn’t want more talent on their roster? But, I’m not prepared to put it all on the feet of the talent.

Granted, if you’re the 49ers right now, you’ve got quite the bounty on that side of the ball. But, we don’t even need to be the best of the best. I would settle for just being better than we’ve been. Let’s start there, and see where Macdonald and company can take us.

Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

The Seahawks’ Season Ended With A Pointless Victory Over The Cardinals

I don’t see this victory as being QUITE as enraging as the Week 18 Broncos victory last year (when we had their first round draft pick, which fell from a #3 to a #5, a crucial drop that eliminated any opportunity for a truly impactful stud player, or at least a bevy of extra picks in a potential trade-down from 3), but, you know, a win when your season is going nowhere is always going to be annoying to me.

The Seahawks fell from 14th to 16th, while allowing the Cardinals to go from 5th to 4th. It’s not really a HUGE difference, on either end.

Of course, the ideal scenario would’ve involved the Bears beating the Packers, with the Cards beating the Seahawks, but we can’t ever have nice things. You know that. The Bears, for whatever reason, couldn’t get anything going, in a 17-9 loss to the Packers in Lambeau. 3/11 on third down will do that, I guess. That was a weird all-around game, though. Green Bay’s defense actually showed up to play! Maybe they’re getting healthier on that side of the ball at the exact right time? Because their D looked like ass for a while.

That game ended in the middle of the fourth quarter. At that point, Arizona had a 20-13 lead, and they were driving to go up two scores. Matt Prater missed a 43 yard field goal with just under 3 minutes to go in the game that would’ve ended things. The Seahawks, naturally, drove right down the field in just over a minute and hit Lockett on a beautiful 34 yard TD pass to pull within one. With the season already over, we went for two, Geno had all day, and was able to connect on the 2-point conversion to go up 21-20.

The only good thing about that was Arizona had so much time left to re-take the lead. They got back into field goal range with a second remaining, but Prater missed again (this time from 51 yards). Both kicks were wide-right, ever so slightly.

Geno hit 16/28 for 189, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. Walker ran 78 yards on 17 carries. Charbonnet added 32 yards on 5 carries. Lockett had 2 catches for 71 yards and a TD, Dissly had 3 for 46 and a TD. Bobby Wagner had 15 tackles to lead the league (with 183). Devon Witherspoon had 11 tackles (including 3 for loss). Darrell Taylor had our lone sack.

I tried to make it a point to watch the entire game, though I did go split screen with the Packers/Bears. It feels weird rooting against the Seahawks, and I’m sure if that other game had gone the other way, I would’ve felt that bubbling excitement boiling over. But, truly, this Seahawks team was not made for the playoffs. It was barely made for the regular season. This team felt like damn near every Mariners team we’ve seen over the last 20 years. Just good enough at times to hold our interest, but ultimately destined to fall short.

The Rams finished 10-7, after beating the 49ers in a Battle of the Backups. That leaves us, at 9-8, firmly entrenched in third place. We had a -38 point differential. We were 5-3 at home, 4-5 on the road. We were 2-4 in the division (both wins against Arizona), and 7-5 in the NFC.

Of note, our Strength Of Schedule – used in tiebreakers to determine draft order – was .512. Only 4 of the 14 playoff teams had to overcome a more difficult schedule: Baltimore (.543), Pittsburgh (.540), Cleveland (.536), and the Rams (.529). The 49ers were close (.509), but isn’t that interesting? The AFC North was the only division EVER to have four teams finish above .500. They ended up, as a result, having the most difficult schedule of anyone. The NFC West were next on that list, in no small part because we also had to play the AFC North. 12 of the 18 teams to not make the playoffs had Strength of Schedules over .500. It’s crazy how much luck comes into it.

Geno Smith finished with 3,624 passing yards, 20 TDs, and 9 INTs. I’ll do a separate post about how this compares to his 2022 season, but suffice it to say, there’s a significant drop-off.

Kenneth Walker finished with 905 yards in 15 games, for a 4.1 average per carry. Charbonnet had 462 in 16 games, with a 4.3 average per carry. D.K. Metcalf had 66 receptions for 1,114 yards and 8 TDs. Tyler Lockett had 79 for 894 and 5 TDs. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had 63 for 628 and 4 TDs.

Bobby Wagner had the 183 tackles, with 3.5 sacks. Julian love had 123 tackles and led the team with 4 INTs. Boye Mafe led the team with 9 sacks, Jarran Reed had 7, Darrell Taylor had 5.5, Dre’Mont Jones and Jordyn Brooks had 4.5 each, and Leonard Williams had 4 sacks in just 10 games with the Seahawks (5.5 sacks in total, across a whopping 18 games, since he missed out on having a BYE week this year). Devon Witherspoon led the team with 16 passes defended, Riq Woolen had 11 and Love finished with 10. Woolen and Tre Brown had 2 INTs each, Witherspoon, Diggs, and Brooks each had 1.

That’s really all I got for now. We’ve got a lot going on, sports-wise, this week, so Seahawks Death Week will have to be postponed. It’s been … a season. See you next time!

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

The Seahawks Picked Up A Late, Ugly Win In Tennessee

As advertiesed, this game was kind of a slog. Also as advertised, this game was closer than it had any right to be.

The game was still 10-6 Titans with about 12 minutes left in the game, before a flurry of touchdowns resulted in a 20-17 outcome. I’ll be the first to admit, I had a lot going on Christmas Eve. At this point in my day, I was taking my step-daughter to meet with a friend, getting some coffee, and refilling some propane tanks. Then, it was time to clean my new outdoor propane griddle, followed by seasoning my new outdoor propane griddle. It was during this seasoning portion of my day where I was running in and out of the house to check in on the last couple drives. I distractedly saw the Titans methodically move the ball down for a go-ahead score, followed by the Seahawks very quickly (yet also somehow still methodically) moving the ball for the game-winning score. Condensed into this short window, you would’ve thought this was an exciting game! But, in total, it was wildly frustrating and more than a little boring.

Geno Smith returned from his injury and was fine. He looked pretty great in the fourth quarter, but for the first three the offense couldn’t seem to get much going. I’m sure part of that has to do with play-calling and offensive scheme, part of that has to do with Geno’s decision making, and part of that has to do with his protection. There were a number of times it was like no one was playing offensive tackle at all! It’s fine as rookies to have two guys under cheap, team-control. But, the more they play, the more they’re going to cost – even under the rookie contract structure – because they get raises based on playing time. If they’re still producing at the level they were as rookies – which was okay, but nothing compared to the best of the best – then that’s not really a value anymore. It’s just two underperforming tackles (who, not for nothing, are sandwiching three underperforming interior linemen).

As expected, the running game had a tough time getting anything going. Kenneth Walker did his best – with ample cutbacks and broken tackles – but could only muster 54 yards on 16 carries. There was a good mix of production out of Lockett and JSN, with D.K. finding the endzone, and Colby Parkinson bodying up his defender for a post-up game-winner. I will say that the Parkinson play was EXACTLY what we all envisioned when he was originally drafted. Only took four years to finally come to fruition.

I thought the defense looked just okay too. They didn’t allow Tannehill to get going, but then again, it’s Tannehill and he’s pretty washed up at this point. We did manage 6 sacks, and forcing them into 3 punts when they only had 6 possessions (not counting the two end-of-half drives resulting in no points) is actually pretty solid. But, behind Derrick Henry & Co., they also averaged 5.2 yards per carry (31 for 162), and it’s always annoying when we allow a running back to throw a TD pass.

Clearly, neither team had any interest in stepping on the gas in this game. There were 15 possessions total, 13 if you discount the end-of-half drives by the Titans that went nowhere. Get in, get out, hope to avoid injuries; that was the name of the game.

It was nice to see Boye Mafe get a couple sacks – after a pretty long stretch (it seemed like) without any – and for Bobby Wagner to add another to his ledger (with a couple of TFLs to boot). Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, and even ex-Titan Mario Edwards all had a sack to really pump up our numbers on the season. The Seahawks now have 45 on the year, which is good for a tie for sixth. Not too shabby.

This victory brings us to 8-7 on the season. Thanks to Minnesota’s loss to the Lions this weekend, we’re now the 7-seed in the NFC. There’s four 7-8 teams all with varying degrees of chances to overtake us if we drop one of the next two games. So far, the Vikings seem to have the best chance at that, sitting with a 6-4 conference record (the Seahawks are 6-5, with one game to go against the NFC down in Arizona in the final week of the season). The Packers are the other big threat to us; they have a 5-5 conference record and they face the Vikings this very week. Green Bay wraps up their season against the Bears, so if they were to win out and tie us in overall record, they’d leap over us (just as we did to them last year).

Based on Seattle’s level of talent, and the way we play the game of football, honestly nothing would surprise me. We could win out, we could go 1-1, we could lose both, or we could even tie one or two times! How insane would it be to finish 8-7-2? Not that insane at all, actually!

We all know how I feel about the Seahawks making the playoffs: I think it’s pointless and I think it will actively hurt us in the future (because the organization might believe – as they did last offseason – that we’re only a small tweak or two away from contending for a Super Bowl, and let another year go by without drafting a quarterback). But, if we proceed with the premise that the Seahawks are going to make it – because that’s just what they do – then there’s really only one viable option I want to see.

The 49ers just lost to the Ravens. That dropped them into a 3-way tie at 11-4 with the Eagles and Lions, but the 49ers have tiebreakers over both. That’s thanks to a head-to-head victory over the Eagles, and conference record over the Lions. The Seahawks are all but guaranteed to be the 7-seed; the only way we’d make the leap to 6 is if we overtake the Rams (who are also 8-7, but have won 5 of their last 6 games, as they appear to be one of the hottest teams in football outside of the city of Baltimore). And there’s no way we can take the 5-seed.

Worst-case scenario is: the 49ers fall to the 2-seed and whoop our asses in the wild card round (as they did last year). Second worst-case scenario is: the 49ers remain in the 1-seed, we beat whoever is the 2-seed (currently the Eagles), only to go into San Francisco and get demolished after they’ve had a week of rest.

So, what’s the best case scenario? Well, tbh, it’s either the 49ers fall to the 3-seed (which would require one loss by them, with the Eagles and Lions winning out) and we stay a 7-seed; or the 49ers fall to the 2-seed and we somehow get to the 6-seed.

In the first case, we would play the Lions in round 1, beat them, then go to Philly (who we have a pretty great track record against under Pete Carroll). In theory, if we win those two games, we’d go on to play the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game anyway. But, who knows? Maybe the Rams or the Cowboys knock them out of our way, and we have a much more winnable game in front of us.

In the second case, assuming a 6-seed Seahawks faces a 3-seed Lions, we’d have to hope that the 7-seed Rams take out the 2-seed 49ers. Then, the Rams would proceed to have to go to Philly (who would have the week’s rest), while we’d likely go to either Dallas or the winner of the NFC South (in case the Cowboys fall apart, as they’re known to do).

Neither seems very likely, even if you take out the parts where I’m assuming a Seahawks victory. Somehow, someway, you just know it’s going to end with the Seahawks losing to the 49ers in the first round. God football can be so stupid sometimes.

The Seahawks Barely Beat The Commanders

What a strange game! The defense was nowhere to be seen on that first drive, then they settled down through the third quarter – limiting the Commanders to just two more field goals – and then they fell apart again in the fourth quarter.

The offense, meanwhile, scrabbled together three field goal drives in the first half – once again struggling in or near the red zone – only to pick it up a bit in the second half, and came up huge late in the game to eke out a 29-26 victory.

We looked at times both great and terrible in this game. In the end, talent won out, but I think what this game showed us more than anything is that the talent level of the Seahawks is much closer to the Commanders than it is to the 49ers or the truly elite teams in the NFC.

It was good to see the huge, crushing mistakes were eliminated in this one. I don’t think the Seahawks could’ve afforded any turnovers, and thankfully they managed to avoid them. Geno Smith had a good game, throwing for 369 yards and 2 TDs. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett both had strong performances (7 for 98 and 8 for 92 and a TD, respectively). Kenneth Walker had some big plays (127 yards from scrimmage and a receiving TD), and Jaxon Smith-Njigba had a solid 4 for 53.

Defensively, the big story was Boye Mafe, with his seventh consecutive game with a sack. Leondard Williams had his first sack with the Seahawks. And the cornerbacks seemed to clamp down pretty good on the Commanders’ receivers. But, we also let their running backs run roughshod both on the ground and through the air, with lots of missed tackles/assignments.

It was critical for the Seahawks to limit pressure on Geno, and he ended up only taking one sack. This seemed to be his least-pressured game of the season, and his numbers looked pretty good accordingly.

Jason Myers came up huge, with five field goals, four from 40+, on a not-great weather weekend.

This brought the Seahawks back to 6-3 on the year, keeping pace with the 49ers. Now, we head to L.A. to take on the Rams in a rematch of that week 1 debacle. It’s hard to predict what that game is going to look like, without knowing the status of their key players.

The Rams are coming off of a BYE, and Matthew Stafford has been nursing a thumb injury. The Rams are, predictably, 3-6 on the year and look like they’re going nowhere. However, Stafford looks to be on track for his return this week, and as we all know, the Rams always play us tough, no matter how bad they are on paper.

I don’t think the Rams are any worse than the Commanders. That should, at the very least, give us pause. I don’t see any reason why this game shouldn’t be closer than the 30-13 drubbing we suffered at the start of the season, but I also see no reason why we would feel remotely confident. It’s really kind of a no-win situation. If we beat them, we were supposed to beat them; if we lose, then it’s going to be another miserable Sunday losing to the hated Rams in a game where we’re severely out-coached.

My official pick is somewhere in the realm of 27-24 Rams. I hope I’m wrong. But, I’ll also be on my honeymoon when it’s taking place, so if all goes according to plan, I won’t see one iota of this matchup.