Leave it to me to always look on the bright side. Here’s where I get to REALLY wallow in my football depression. Won’t you indulge me?
You know what never works? Trying to recreate old glories. Politicians talk about taking us back to the good ol’ days of the 1950’s, when a single-income middle class family could thrive; sorry to break it to you, but those days are never coming back. Paunchy men in their 40’s and 50’s going through mid-life crises might buy flashy sports cars and pop Cialis like they’re Tic Tacs in hopes of reclaiming a youth lost to the drudgery of parenthood and a loveless marriage; sorry to break it to you, but women in their 20’s almost certainly don’t want to fuck you.
The Seahawks are in an interesting position for an NFL franchise, that you rarely get to see. From a head-coaching standpoint, the Seahawks are the fifth-most stable franchise. Pete Carroll was hired in 2010; only four coaches have held their positions longer. There aren’t great numbers at our disposal, but the average tenure for an NFL head coach seems to be less than four years. Even Doug Pederson – who led the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title over a heavily-favored New England Patriots team in 2017 – was let go after five years on the job. That’s nuts! The pressure to win and win immediately has never been higher (even though the league is more profitable than it’s ever been, and seemingly will continue to be so regardless of whether your team is good or not). So, it’s pretty rare to see someone in Pete Carroll’s position: someone who won it all relatively early, and is still firmly entrenched many years later.
Carroll is also still as determined as ever to get this team back to the Super Bowl, and appears to be going about it the same way as those politicians and middle aged men: by trying to recreate the glory days of the 2012-2015 Seattle Seahawks.
Even at that time, the NFL was clearly in the midst of an offensive revolution. Pass first, pass often, pass to win games. Worry about the defense next (but, obviously, don’t put too many resources into it), and worry about the running game not-at-all. The very best teams have more-or-less won it all with this model (while hitting the lottery on injury luck and drafting plenty of young, cheap defensive stars who pop at the right time). The Seahawks of that era zagged when the rest of the league zigged; we emphasized the run game, we spent the majority of our salary cap dollars on defense, we slowed games down, and managed to prevail late in games more often than not.
For the last half-decade or so, the Seahawks have been living a total identity crisis. I think it’s safe to say it all started with the trade for Jimmy Graham, a soft-as-cotton-candy tight end who never met a block he didn’t olé like a matador. For a while there, our talent at running back plummeted just as our neglect along the offensive line ruined us. We’ve since managed to claw our way back to respectability since 2017, but that’s come at the expense of a defense that’s slowly declined as piece-by-piece the stars of old have moved on to other teams or life outside of football.
It’s been a neverending game of Whac-A-Mole. Pay Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Duane Brown, and so on … watch as our secondary erodes and the pass rush falters. Trade for Jadeveon Clowney, Jamal Adams, and Carlos Dunlap … marvel at the shrinking violet offensive line and an interior defensive line that can’t stop the run when it matters most. It’s always fucking SOMETHING with this team. We can’t seem to ever put it all back together again.
And yet, this is what Pete Carroll is trying to accomplish. It starts with firing Brian Schottenheimer (just as soon as I figure out how to spell his name without checking with Google first). Schotty, obviously, has eyes to be a head coach like his dad one day. You don’t get head coaching jobs by helming a run-first, middle-of-the-road offense. You do it by scoring lots of points with flashy plays through the air. Unfortunately for him, that’s really not his strong suit. Defenses figured him out and he was incapable of adjusting; Schotty should probably NEVER be a head coach. Or, who knows, maybe that’s what he was always meant to be, and he should NEVER be an offensive coordinator! The problem is, you can’t get to that next level until you master your current position, and it doesn’t look like that’ll ever be in the cards for him.
I won’t shed a tear for the loss of Schotty, but that also doesn’t mean I’m super stoked by who’s going to come in. Pete Carroll wants a guy who’s going to run the offense his way. Emphasis on the word “run”. Knowing the climate of the NFL, hiring someone who has higher aspirations for his coaching career is going to be tricky; he’s going to have to do his job well with one hand tied behind his back (so to speak). He’s going to have to lead this team to Super Bowl success while calling an offense that doesn’t necessarily light it up among the league’s very best. It’s hard to get noticed that way, when there are so many viable head coaching candidates throughout the pro and college ranks.
What’s clear is that the Seahawks will never succeed when different factions are trying to pull the team in opposing directions. We can’t forget the Russell Wilson in the room. He obviously wants to be recognized as one of the best quarterbacks in football. Yes, he wants to win, but he also wants accolades. He wants MVPs. When he hangs ’em up, he wants to be among the greatest to ever play the position. I don’t know what part he played in Schotty being fired, but from where I’m sitting, it seems like they were on the same page. Both wanted to throw the ball more this year, and Pete Carroll was the one who had to let them do it. So, I would imagine Wilson isn’t too keen on the loss of Schotty, and the prospects of going back to a run-first attack.
Will Wilson want to stick around for the next offensive coordinator? One who’s just a puppet for Pete Carroll? Or, will he opt to demand a trade to a team that will utilize him the way he feels he should be utilized? I guess we’ll see.
The biggest flaw I see in this notion of trying to revert back to what the Seahawks were doing in those glory years is financial in nature. Those teams were taking advantage of having a Pro Bowl quarterback on a cheap rookie deal, so they were free to spend money elsewhere. With Wilson making money near the top of the market, there’s obviously a lot less money to go around (saying nothing of the reduction in the salary cap we’re looking at for next season and maybe beyond).
Then, there’s the matter of there not being as many stars on this roster as there were back then. We drafted tremendously from 2010-2012! We haven’t come close to hitting on that many guys since then. You could argue that 8 of the top 10 players from the Super Bowl winning squad were on rookie deals. How many guys – heading into 2021 – in our top 10 will be on similar contracts? I’m thinking two, maybe three. And, other than D.K. Metcalf, I would say that none of them are of the Pro Bowl/All Pro calibre of the guys from our heyday.
The vast majority of our best players are on second, third, or fourth contracts. That shit adds up! We need more of these guys on rookie deals to pop in a major way, but are incapable of developing them timely enough. And, with a lack of high draft picks (or draft picks period), that doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.
So, what are we banking on, then? We’re saddled in an NFC West that figures to continue being the class of the NFL for many years to come; ideally things would revert to them all being terrible, allowing us to cakewalk to division titles and high seeds in the conference standings. We’re banking on a return of the significant injury luck we had in the early going. And we’re banking on some mythological version of Russell Wilson that pulls our asses out of the fire every time it’s the fourth quarter and we’re losing by double digits.
That NFC Championship Game against the Packers was a once-in-a-generation event! It can’t be a fucking strategy that we hang our hats on every year in the playoffs!
I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re happy just making the playoffs every year, more power to you. If you derive enjoyment from watching a Hall of Fame quarterback who only wins one Super Bowl in his career, then I’m happy for you. It seems like a very Seattle type of mindset, so you’re certainly in the right place when it comes to settling.
Settling doesn’t come easy to me, though. The problem is, I’m loyal to a fault, and the Seahawks are the team I’ve chosen to follow. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect better! But, I’m also able to see this team for what it is. The confluence of things that would have to happen for this team – as it’s currently constructed, from the top down – to win another Super Bowl is so remote and far-fetched that it’s hardly even worth talking about, because it’s almost certainly never going to happen.
The 2020 Seahawks were an interesting case study for me. I don’t remember a team so schizophrenic in all the time I’ve been following the league. An elite offense went in the tank; an all-time poor defense turned itself around into something pretty darn good. Yet, with the power of hindsight, it’s clear that the schedule – as it was sequenced for us – did no one any favors. This team looked as good as any, and as likely to make it to the Super Bowl as any. We had talent at all levels, a stable coaching staff, and enough health throughout that this should be a team that’s preparing to play this weekend (not one still searching for answers).
It’s weird to say a 12-4 team is a fraud, but the Seahawks both took advantage of the schedule and were bamboozled by it. We played all of four games against opponents who made the playoffs, and went 2-2 in those games. One of those teams was a division winner with a losing record, so I kind of want to throw that one out. We were 1-3 against truly great teams (including playoffs) and all three of those losses were games we weren’t even that competitive in! And remember, this was a Seahawks team that – at least from the eye test – was the best one we’ve seen around here since 2015.
That’s pretty damning. And it’s why I’ve lost all confidence that things will ever get any better than this. Sure, we’ll continue to make the playoffs. We might even make it to the Divisional Round again if faced with the right first round matchup. But, this isn’t a team that’s going to get back to playing for championships anytime soon. Not as long as we’re doing everything in our power to try to turn back the clock to 2012 again.
Pete Carroll would have better luck buying a Maserati and firing up the ol’ Ashley Madison account. At least that way he might be the one doing some of the fucking, instead of constantly being the one getting fucked.