Seahawks Death Week: Talking About The Elephants In The Room

Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, and John Schneider are those elephants. Jody Allen & Co. have some decisions to make. As I see it, the options are as follows:

  • Keep Everybody
  • Keep Pete Carroll and John Schneider, Trade Russell Wilson
  • Keep Pete and Russ, Fire John
  • Keep John and Russ, Fire Pete
  • Keep Russell Wilson, Fire Pete Carroll and John Schneider
  • Keep John Schneider, Fire Pete Carroll, Trade Russell Wilson
  • Keep Pete Carroll, Fire John Schneider, Trade Russell Wilson
  • Trade/Fire Everybody

Does that look right? It’s absurd how long it took me to figure out that 3-way quagmire. Anyway, one of those eight scenarios is bound to happen.

The likeliest three – in some order – are “Keep Everybody”, “Keep Pete & John (trade Russ)”, or “Keep Russ (fire Pete & John)”. The virtual lock that absolutely won’t happen is that everybody is gone.

Considering the news over the last couple days – and the fact that no change has been made as of yet – I’d say Pete and John are here to stay. I suppose – since we don’t have a traditional ownership set-up – they could be taking their time and might wait a little bit before making a move, but that seems like a disasterous scenario to me (considering all the teams who did their shit-canning on Black Monday would have a head start on us by now). It makes sense though, from a financial perspective. Pete and John were just extended to big money deals through the 2025 season (Pete) and 2027 draft (John); that’s fully guaranteed money. I know, in the grand scheme of things, a billionaire owner wouldn’t flinch at throwing away that kind of money if they felt it was necessary to make a move, but I would also argue the recency of these signings indicates they’re all on the same page with how this team should be run.

As for Russell Wilson, that’s anyone’s guess.

Do you put more stock in the rosy feeling of the Seahawks dominating their final two regular season games (and winning 4 of 6 overall)? Or, do you put more stock in Russell Wilson’s media campaign following the 2020 season, and how he nudge-nudge, wink-wink, wouldn’t mind being traded to a certain four teams? Everyone’s careful to state it wasn’t a trade demand, but following a 7-10 season, maybe whatever it was turns into one now.

Predicting this feels like a coin flip. I’m leaning towards Russell Wilson wanting out. I think there’s a lot of evidence to back it up. I would say, for starters, professional athletes (and coaches, and front office people, and just about everyone else) are notorious liars. So, when Wilson talks about wanting to be in Seattle, I’d put a big ol’ Maury Povich meme up next to that.

Wilson obviously wants to be in an offense that caters to his need to be the best quarterback in football. He wants everything to run through him, he wants to pass the ball significantly more than he hands it off. He wants an MVP award. He wants to be the main reason (by leaps and bounds) why his team wins football games. And he wants to win multiple Super Bowls. Ultimately, he wants to be a Hall of Famer. Because, again, he wants to go down as the best to ever play the position (or, failing that, the best after Tom Brady).

Yet, whenever Russell Wilson has tried to bite off more than he can chew in Seattle, he’s almost always struggled. The last two years of this Let Russ Cook nonsense is a prime example. It’s not ALL his fault, because obviously there’s a tug o’ war going on with Pete Carroll, who does stick his nose in and limits his rampant passing whenever the offense struggles and/or turns the ball over too much. It’s also not his fault that this offensive line largely struggles in pass protection (specifically for someone like Wilson, who likes to move around a lot and will run himself into opposing linemen; it’s hard to know where Wilson will be at any given moment as a play breaks down). It’s also not his fault that we continue to waste time with inferior linemen in general, when there are better options available (why it took so long for Phil Haynes to get an opportunity is anybody’s guess; why Pocic sat for so long after he returned from his injury is, again, a mystery).

But, I think we’ve also seen enough from Wilson to know where he’s limited, and where he’s sabotaging things. He’s not good at the intermediate passing game. He’s not smart about checking down when the deep pass isn’t there. He too often tries to twirl out of trouble or run backwards, exacerbating sacks that don’t need to be so devastating. He’s, frankly, not a good third down quarterback. And he chooses not to run as often as he should, to keep defenses honest; even if he’s lost a step, he’s still capable of running when he wants to.

Then there are, of course, all the non-football reasons why Wilson might want to leave. Seattle is a middling media market. Ciara is an international music star. Russ wants to be a Business, man. I think they would prefer he play for a team in New York, L.A., Miami, Chicago, Dallas, D.C., or Vegas. For football reasons, throw New Orleans, Atlanta, Indy, Denver, Cleveland, or Minnesota into the mix. There’s lots of options, any number of them would be more attractive for someone looking for a change of scenery than Seattle.

If we assume Pete and John are here to stay for the foreseeable future, then Russ has to decide if this is the place he wants to be. And, if he chooses to stay, then he needs to buy in 100% to the way this offense needs to be operated. We need to rely on our running game to bring the defense closer to the line of scrimmage; it’s the best way for Wilson to take advantage of what he does best: exploiting the defense over the top for explosive chunk gains.

Meanwhile, John needs to shore up talent along the offensive line, and have a better plan when it comes to bringing in quality running backs. And Pete and his coaching staff need to determine who the best players are earlier in the season, so we don’t keep blowing games early.

But, as I said before, gun to my head, I think Russ forces a trade. Now, is that something I want?

It’s hard. I know I’ve talked about how I’ve soured on Wilson after last year’s media blitz, but I’ve seen how this team can perform at its best. When everyone is on the same page, and everything is clicking, the Seahawks’ offense can do some real damage. And I do NOT believe Wilson has fallen off a cliff. Sure, he’s on the downside of his career, but he’s still close enough to his peak to easily be a Top 10 quarterback in this league, with a shot at being a Top 5 guy if everything goes according to plan. I still believe he’s destined to be a Hall of Famer; even the best all-time QBs have had down years during their careers.

Beating the Lions and Cardinals the way they did to close out the season shows me this team’s potential. That’s the closest I’ve seen to our late-2012 run since it happened. Sure, we’ve ended seasons on fire before, but not imposing our will the way we did in those two games. Again, the last 50-point game we put up was in 2012; that’s extremely difficult to do in the NFL!

But, do I want to be sucked in by our most recent two performances, one of which happened against one of the two worst teams in football (ignoring all the games that came before it, both this season and some of the more infuriating games we’ve bungled over the last half-decade)? Do I ultimately believe that this is a team – with Russell Wilson at the helm – that won’t just contend for playoff spots, but win a motherfucking championship?

Not really.

I think we, as Seahawks fans, have to face up to some hard truths. One of which is: Russell Wilson absolutely needs a quality running game and defense to win championships. Simply having “Russell Wilson: Top 5 Quarterback” isn’t sufficient. He’s good enough to make up for a lot of illnesses across this roster, but he’s only one man. Without proper support in those two key areas, all is lost.

I don’t believe those Seahawks teams from 2012-2015 would’ve been nearly as dominant without Russell Wilson; I certainly don’t think they would’ve made the Super Bowl in back-to-back years with someone like Andy Dalton (or some other replacement-level quarterback). That being said, it’s clear why those teams were so successful: the defense and Marshawn Lynch.

The defense, more or less since 2015, has declined severely as the key guys from that Legion of Boom era have all retired, gotten older/slower, or moved on to other teams. We’ve been massively unsuccessful in replacing those guys through the draft, trades, or free agency. And, as our coaching staff kept getting poached of its best and brightest, we’re left with mediocre leadership who continue to fail to get the most out of their players.

Meanwhile, we’ve tried countless times to find the successor to Marshawn Lynch. Most have been mediocre. Chris Carson was a worthy follow up, but he’s been too injured too often to come close to living up. Beastmode has so many elite and wonderful qualities – from his rough-house style of play, to his infectious personality – but one of the more underrated aspects to his greatness was his availability. He showed up, game-in and game-out.

Just go back and look at those seasons, particularly our Super Bowl runs of 2013 and 2014. Look at how many games where our offense struggled for long stretches and needed the defense to keep us in them, until Wilson led the offense to a late-game victory. Or, those games where the offense got us a lead, and the defense had to hold on to secure it. Now, start thinking about all of those games we haven’t won since 2016. Think about how the defense has struggled. Think about how we’ve needed the offense to be the one to carry this team, and how often they’ve failed in key moments.

The thing is, it’s not one or the other. You need the running game and the defense, but you DO need the quarterback as well. However, there’s only so much money to go around. And there’s only so much a GM can do when you’re drafting so low in the first round most years (that is, when you’re not trading away those picks to try to find elite talent in other ways, since there’s rarely elite talent falling into the 20’s of the NFL draft). Can the Seahawks build that defense when they’re paying Russell Wilson so much money? It’s possible, but it’s very difficult. Can a defense that’s not-quite-elite still win us a title with Wilson at quarterback? It’s possible, but it requires buy-in from the quarterback himself. And, even then, it’s going to need a running game like we saw from Rashaad Penny the last month of the season.

My main line of thinking is that I don’t believe Russell Wilson will ever get with the program. Even if he makes the commitment to stay and buys in to a more balanced philosophy that features more rushing than he’d like, he is who he is. He’s still going to struggle in the intermediate game, finding check-downs, converting third downs, and knowing when he himself needs to run with the football. I also don’t believe we’re ever going to find someone as durable as Marshawn Lynch, and so our running game will continue to be a revolving door from week to week. Finally, I don’t believe this defense – with Ken Norton & Co. in charge – is capable of being consistent enough to sustain even a Top 15 level of production.

At this point, I think it’s probably best for all involved for Wilson to demand a trade. The Seahawks need an infusion of draft picks. They need to bring in a new, young QB while we still have the culture in place to surround him with quality players in order to turn him into a winner. And, they need to use any and all resources – with that quarterback on his rookie deal – to bolster the defense like they did heading into 2013, so that we can take advantage in that brief window where the quarterback isn’t earning an untenable percentage of the overall salary cap.

If it doesn’t happen, and Wilson opts to stick around, I won’t be up in arms or anything. But, I’ll go into every season from here on out knowing there’s a ceiling to the Seahawks’ success, that being the Divisional Round of the playoffs and no further. Until they prove me wrong, that’s what we have to look forward to. And, instead of getting a jumpstart on a rebuild – while there’s enough of a core in place to possibly right the ship in a hurry – we’ll just kick this can down the road another few years, until Pete Carroll has to retire in disgrace, John Schneider returns to Green Bay, and Russell Wilson is wearing another jersey anyway.

I Feel Like We Should Be More Worried About Seahawks Ownership

Seattle has had to endure so many terrible owners and ownership groups in our professional sports history. Good God, seemingly each one was worse than the last!

People complained like crazy about Nintendo owning the Mariners (mostly because Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong proved to be totally incapable of running a winning franchise and pushing us to the next level), but people forget how horrid the two prior owners were through the 80’s and early 90’s (George Argyros and Jeff Smulyan); both threatened and tried to move the team to other parts of the country. The jury is still out on John Stanton, but this current rebuild will go a long way towards our opinion on the job he’s doing.

The Supersonics, obviously, rate as having the absolute worst owners in Seattle sports history. It’s hard for me to choose, honestly. I know Clay Bennett and the OKC guys were the ones who literally stole them from us and moved them to the midwest, but I would argue Howard Schultz was the absolute worst owner in franchise history. He tried to run the team like a business – looking to make a buck over winning actual basketball games – and he doomed us to our eventual demise by being the one to sell them to the OKC guys (knowing full well they’d stop at nothing to move the Sonics, but trying to pretend like he was the one who was bamboozled when obvious scumbags didn’t stick to their “promises”). The Ackerley Group were among the best owners in Seattle sports history, though they did cheap out on renovating what would become Key Arena, the beginning of the end of it all.

We can’t leave out the Seahawks, because the first sports villian of my young life was Ken Behring, when he tried to move the Seahawks to southern California in the mid-90s. That was after many years of meddling and stripping this team of any opportunity to compete in the AFC West by himself being cheap and sticking his nose into player personnel decisions that would doom us to an entire decade of mediocrity in the 1990s.

I think it’s without question that Paul Allen is far and away the BEST pro sports owner in Seattle’s relatively young history. He swooped in and saved the NFL for our fair city, and oversaw the greatest period of success on the field by leaps and bounds. He brought in Mike Holmgren, who instituted an immediate culture change. That led to our first Super Bowl appearance in 2005. The hand-off from Holmgren to the next guy didn’t go smoothly, but Allen didn’t settle for a loser in Jim Mora Jr. Instead, he went right out and hired Pete Carroll and John Schneider, who took us to back-to-back Super Bowls and won our first-ever NFL championship.

The Seahawks, during Allen’s tenure of 1997 – 2018, were a tremendous success. They were among the best-run franchises in the entire NFL. And, when you look at how some of these teams are run – Washington, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, even Dallas if we’re being honest – it’s easy to be in a perpetual loop of awfulness.

Now, the Seahawks are in a trust, run by Allen’s sister Jody, who is the de facto owner for the time being. It’s anybody’s guess as to who’s calling the shots. How involved is she? Who does she have under her – and above Pete and John – who are advising her? The franchise seems rudderless at the moment. I don’t blame Paul Allen’s death for the way the Seahawks have declined in 2021, but at some point the buck is going to stop with who’s running the show.

Right now, the scapegoat is some combination of Pete and John, with a disgruntled Russell Wilson thrown into the mix. Once you start getting rid of one or more of those people, then you have to start looking at ownership, or lack thereof.

It seems inevitable that the Seahawks are going to be sold to a permanent owner, and that terrifies the BeJesus out of me. Good owners, in any sport, seem to be in VERY short supply. You get someone young and/or desperate, and you’re looking at a person who will overly-involve themselves in the day-to-day operations. You get someone old and/or who doesn’t give a shit, and you’re looking at a person who will let the team rot. You need a balance of someone who cares, but who will let the football people make football decisions (while at the same time, holding those football people accountable for those decisions when they start going wrong).

It’s a legitimate concern that maybe Pete Carroll has too much control over the players we bring in (and the players we keep around). It’s a legitimate concern that John Schneider’s skills at drafting and targeting quality trade chips and free agents have declined. They need to be held accountable, by a strong, disciplined owner. We need a plan in place to turn this franchise back around in a hurry.

It doesn’t seem like we have the ownership group in place to handle this properly. This is a very interesting look at the Portland Trailblazers, who are in a similar boat, as they were once owned by Paul Allen and now sit in that same trust as the Seahawks. It’s not a matter of finding a new ownership group immediately; it’s about finding the right ownership group. I don’t know who that is, because I don’t keep tabs on who all the eligible billionaires are who are also interested in being NFL owners. But, you better believe it’s going to be keeping me up at night, until the team is eventually sold.

Owners aren’t like head coaches or GMs; you don’t get out from under them in 2-3 years’ worth of losing seasons. You are STUCK with them! If there was any accountability for shitty owners, the Knicks would’ve been saved from James Dolan’s tyranny eons ago. Ken Behring was the shortest-tenured Seahawks owner and he still had the team from 1988 to 1996. That is such a long time, but there are no guaranteed floors. Once an owner is accepted into the NFL’s tribe, it’s pretty much like a Supreme Court seat; you’re there as long as you want to be. Dan Snyder is as despicable and inept as they get, and he’s been the owner in Washington since 1999, with no end in sight, in spite of yearly controversies and embarrassments to both the franchise and the league itself.

What if WE get the next Dan Snyder?! Well, there will be no end to our bitching about the Seahawks, that’s a given. But, who wants to be a fan of a franchise that’s so poorly run? At that point, are you better off just giving up and devoting your time to something else?

It’s all just a nightmare. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. Unless someone wants to give me a few billion dollars and vouch or me buying the team? You could do worse!