Seattle’s Deep Ball Issue and Why It Wasn’t Going to Leave with Darell Bevell

September 13th, 2018 | Written by Brandon Adams

We’re several days now into the usual cycles of “why did this game go wrong” regarding the tough loss to the Broncos.

There’s a lot of reasons not to get too twisted around the axle over the loss, a loss though it be. It was Week 1, which is always weird. It was a non-conference opponent, which favors us in tiebreakers. We didn’t even lose that horribly, and possibly on just a missed field goal. We’re fielding a lot of rookies, some of which were always going to undergo growing pains (and some of which provided some tantalizing potential for the future, like Will Dissly and Michael Dickson).

And, of course, we’re under new coaching. That always creates growing pains as new systems are installed. That’s generally been accepted, particularly given many fans’ distaste for the departed Darell Bevell.

But could it be that the coaching is reason to expect not new things, but generally more of the same?

If you’ll entertain me, consider a pair of passing plays from Seahawks postseason lore (click-throughs required). Both are from the Pete Carroll era; both involve a particular reliance on the deep throw.

This, you might remember, was the first Bears TD in the 2010 divisional contest (the one following the Beastquake game), a 58-yard bomb from Jay Cutler to Greg Olsen.

The public stink of this play was that SS Lawyer Milloy, starting for Seattle that year while mentoring some rook named Kam Chancellor, had lost a step in coverage and needed put out to pasture. A crucial bit of context on this play, and one of the first-level details that armchair analysts usually miss (right up there with whether a defensive line is sending blitz or an offensive line is dialing up a heavy set) is that the play occurred on 3rd down and 2. Milloy was probably surprised by a deep seam route on 3rd and 2 and got caught flat-footed. Most defenders would. Such a low-percentage play call when the average NFL playbook offers dozens of better options for such situations is ridiculous. Or savvy dice-rolling.

The OC calling plays for the Bears that day? Mike Martz – a well-known riverboat gambler.

This second play was Doug Baldwin’s big 35-yard reception in the 2014 conference championship against Green Bay – on 3rd and 6. Again the target was much deeper than down and distance seemingly warranted, and again a defender was caught unaware precisely because he was expecting a shorter route.

The OC calling that play? Darell Bevell.

If you followed this blog during Matt Hasselbeck’s final years in Seattle, you probably got an eyeful of Rob discussing the effect of Hasselbeck’s diminishing arm strength on the offense as a whole. While his pass protection received the lion’s share of criticism, Matt’s lessening inability to strike downfield added to the problem by reducing defenses’ need to cover deep, leaving them with more resources to blitz and resulting in more pressure on the O-line – a snowball effect. It was an example of how numerous factors shape the success of the offense.

Play-calling is another such shaper. This isn’t even a category for some people; we’re in the habit of placing everything on the most visible element, the offensive line. But just as Mike Martz was one of those guys regularly got his quarterbacks sacked and was notorious for boom-or-bust offenses all over the league, a play-caller can free up (or hamstring) his offense through play-calling.

Sound familiar? I’ve long felt that Darell Bevell had some “Mad Mike” in him. Not everyone noticed how often Bevell would call redline shots in situations that seemingly didn’t warrant them. It’s one of those things that is forgiven when it works, but miss a receiver in that situation and the coordinator gets ridiculed for “getting cute” – wasting a 3rd-and-manageable with an unnecessarily tough play.

That was 2015. A lot of Bevell’s gambles that year swung the wrong way, leaving the offense unable to close out the game in the 4th quarter when just one more first down was needed. The defense, left hanging out on the field as a result, would eventually break.

Yet Seattle’s emphasis on the deep passing play has continued. Consider the following statistics from Seattle’s 2017 season (Bevell’s last with the Seahawks):

That’s a lot of deep work. Could this stat be explained by Seattle’s rushing problems and its resulting frequent encounters with 3rd-and-long, thus needing to throw deep? Partially, but not fully. We’re talking 20+ yards downfield. And Seattle has never shied away from give-up run plays in such situations.

Could it be explained by Seattle needing to play constantly from behind, like the Browns? Doubtful. For all its issues, Seattle has only been in a Cleveland-style hole twice in Wilson’s years. That’s part of his legacy.

Also these:

Now we need to talk about the side effects of this big-play philosophy.

Brutal. Russell Wilson was, once again, one of the league’s most pressured quarterbacks. That’s not surprising.

But consider that we are talking about a quarterback with lots of time to throw:

Could some of that eye-popping time-to-throw stat be coming from Wilson’s need to escape the pocket, in turn delaying his throw? Certainly. I don’t think anyone could accurately make the claim that Seattle’s offensive line has been stealthily All-Pro this entire time.

But let me let you in on a little secret.

No playbook anywhere in the league contains a play labeled “X 2 Fake Red Shallow Y Dagger Omaha Omaha Ugh Screw It Just Make the Line Protect for Seven Seconds and Throw to Whoever Gets Open.” That’s not how plays are drawn up in the NFL. Plays target a specific player or field region first, and very few route trees require more than 2.5 to 3 seconds to complete. Aaron Rodgers and his receivers train to begin their scramble drill after 2.8 seconds – the alarm bell at which the play is considered broken. All those times Tony Romo had enough time to grill a burger in the pocket before finding someone open, making you green with envy for a line like his? That wasn’t planned. It was improvisation, as surely as Wilson scrambling. Whatever his OC had in mind for those plays, it was defeated after 3 seconds, salvaged by Romo’s line giving him time to reach his third read and then keep waiting.

This little-known fact has the potential to revolutionize one’s viewing of the game. Not all of sacks and pressures on Wilson over the years have been insta-sacks. If you were to go back and observe his snaps with a stopwatch, you’d be amazed at how many of them were actually coverage pressures – Seattle’s line actually managing 2.5 to 3 seconds of protection (though rarely more) and the play simply doesn’t give Wilson anywhere to throw. Many are long-developing designs that are executed badly, guarded well, or un-exploited by an ultra-conservative quarterback. Of course, it takes a trained eye that can differentiate between two-second sacks and three-second sacks (or simply someone willing to DVR the play a second time instead of relying on their initial takes) to spot this phenomenon. But the point is, while the margin is quite narrow, Wilson is getting time to make the majority of throws in the NFL playbook. Even deep fades can be released relatively quickly thanks to the arc placed on the ball.

Now consider an outlier: Seattle’s categorical defeat of the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in Week 13 of last year.The offense went somewhere in this game, and the common sentiment was, “Well the offense did better, so our line must have randomly improved against a terrific front four before going back to mediocrity the next week”.

But watch the cut-up of pass plays below (courtesy of Ben Baldwin, formerly of Fieldgulls) after the third play or so, with an eye for Wilson’s time-to-throw:

This is a striking contrast to Seattle’s typical gameplan. Throughout the game, Wilson got the ball out quickly and decisively – under 2 seconds on average – aided by play designs that gave him options to do so. You did not see nearly as much of the usual Wilson dropping back five to seven steps, finding nothing, and getting pressured. Instead, the O-line’s ability to hold for more than 2 seconds was rarely even tested, by design (and on the few plays where it was, you get the sense that it might not have gone well). Seattle used their playbook to protect the QB.

The 2016 Patriots game was another instance. Again, generally speaking, Russell Wilson was given options to get the ball out; again the offensive line’s issues were, generally speaking, masked with a somewhat quicker passing game. The result was an offense that moved the chains – very Patriots-like, ironically:

The result? The Seahawks handed the eventual Super Bowl champions of that year a stunning loss on their own turf.

But both wins were followed in short order by letdown losses. I remember watching the Tampa Bay rout that came right after that improbable win in Foxborough. From the first drive, what did you see? Wilson holding onto the ball again. Deep shots sought from the first play. No quick throws, no attempt at a run game, but dropbacks from the first play.

And I remember thinking, “He lapsed. He couldn’t keep it up. He’s gone back to the big play again.”

Sack.

Punt.

Sack.

Punt.

Sack.

Punt.

A whopping five points in that contest, right after defeating New England in their own house. What could explain this bizarre but regular Jekyll-and-Hyde act with the Seahawks?

You might think that by “he lapsed”, I meant Darell Bevell.

But Bevell is gone now, and our gameplan against Denver looked notably familiar. Right down to the sideline fades and bubble screens.

You might be thinking that I meant Russell Wilson.

Wilson is getting a blast of criticism these days, to be sure. People are finally locking onto the fact that our beloved QB does hold onto the pigskin. He’s got some Romo in him. And if I watch him run into the opposing stands to avoid a sack one more time, I might well have a coronary.

But somehow I doubt that the core of the problem is Wilson.

Here’s why.

Explosive plays.

I submit a line of Rob’s from 2011:

“This is the Pete Carroll offense; this is the Pete Carroll show.”

Those words in context, at the time, were a refutation of the idea that Pete Carroll was likely to adopt a West Coasty offense after firing Jeremy Bates. It’s easy to see why. If you’ve missed how much Pete lusts after the big play, you haven’t been paying attention. It was all through the offseason media literature and all over the field product since day one of his tenure in Seattle. He loves the big, back-breaking, defense-discouraging play like I love Mountain Dew. And I’ve got a soda gut. Pete believes strongly in the psychological side of football and trying to get in his opponent’s head. The run game? Useful for wearing down opponents, but also code for play action. Again the big play.

Pete is in charge of this team. The coordinators execute his vision. Bates was fired, according to tweets from Seattle players at the time, because he didn’t focus enough on the run. Bevell and Schottenheimer are not independent, forceful, visionary minds of their own. They’re here to execute Pete’s philosophy.

We might not have complained this time a year ago when Pete’s philosophy, married with Wilson’s heroball tendencies, was still producing spectacular highlights.

But I’m here to say, not enough. Not anymore.

A big-play offense works far better, in general, with a standard offensive line and a threatening run game to divide defense’s attention. We have neither at the moment. You can blame anyone you want for that, but the fact remains that we don’t have the horses.

And it’s not a crippling sentence. Pete Carroll still has the choice of how to play-call around these deficiencies. They can call an offense that minimizes the line’s flaws. Or they can call an offense that throws a glaring spotlight on those flaws like a classic black-clothed thief caught against the brick wall in those old films. The Seahawks have tried both offenses since the 2015 bye. I hope I’ve painted an accurate picture of which has worked better in the post-Lynch era.

Now fast forward from all this to the Broncos game.

A lot of credit was given to Case Keenum’s offensive line and a lot of mud thrown at Seattle’s pass rush. There’s some kernel of truth in that. Pass rush is tough to produce on the road. But again, it went unobserved just how well Denver protected Keenum with their playbook. There was no shortage of that. They mixed in a lot of slants and short throws, giving our guys little time to reach Keenum and discouraging blitzing because extra pass rushers leave even more underneath options for Keenum to punish with. It was masterful execution by Denver, at least for the first half, even if Keenum nearly bungled it.

But what did we see from Seattle’s very first offensive play of 2018 – after all those promises of getting back to the run?

Right away we saw a deep pass play. Requiring longer protection. Against Denver’s pass rush. With Germain Ifedi lined up against one of professional football’s premiere pass rushers in Von Miller.

It’s difficult to decipher exactly what the gameplan was, because so much of what Seattle does is dependent on how things start – “flow”, “schedule”, etc. They lack Marshawn Lynch to immediately re-impose their will. There may have been some element of the deep gameplan that Seattle felt was appropriate for Denver. And it’s worth crediting Seattle for supplying Ifedi with two tight ends to protect on the right (though Ifedi managed to get beat anyway, accompanied by Nick Vannett flailing against a delayed blitz himself).

But generally, the gameplan did not particularly jump out as resembling some of Seattle’s better quick-pass days. To try and answer Von Miller on the road in Week 1 with a gameplan demanding lengthy pass protection from a row of known liabilities, when Wilson has proven he can handle a different playbook, should raise legitimate questions about the continuing wisdom of “Pete’s way”. It is bizarre. We have succeeded before by letting Wilson protect himself with quicker throws. It’s how Tom Brady and Peyton Manning assembled such lengthy careers without getting hurt. Case Keenum was doing it just across the way.

But, of course, if it’s just Pete being stubborn, we wouldn’t be surprised. He’s a strong believer in “our brand of football”. It’s not hard to imagine something in him absolutely hating having to play differently. Being uncomfortable and itching to get back to big plays. Hurry-up all the time? He’d likely say, “that’s not who we are”.

Well, Pete…what you are is 9-8 since the last time you were in the playoffs.

And this year, fairly or not, with proper deference to the Super Bowl win or not, the blame is likely, finally, going to start heading in Pete’s direction.

I’m not a huge proponent of that. But with all the other factors out of the way – Bevell, Cable, injuries, the line, the refs, folks’ dislike for the big-name defensive personalities that are now playing elsewhere (while I have you here, how did that go yesterday?), and yes, issues with mediocre drafts and free-agent signings – Carroll is less protected. None of that other stuff was really the dagger. We were a playoff team throughout, right up until a truly bad spate of signings (Eddie Lacy and Blair Walsh?) and some frustrating injury luck at RB sufficiently sabotaged a season. Those defensive stars were still top players at their positions; the stats proved it. Any other view is revisionist history.

But the offensive philosophy…different story. That’s tangible. That’s right there on the field. The influence of that can be dissected, quantified, falsified.

It doesn’t feel like Seattle’s offense is playing to its strengths. It’s plowing ahead with a narrow focus on “doing things our way”. This is not reactionary after Week 1; this has been going on for years. Even more astonishingly, Seattle’s offense has shown the ability to adapt, but they won’t stick with it.

In the fully dismissable opinion of this football blogger, you can lose in the first quarter. It’s a game of attrition. When we came back to beat the Packers on the way to XLIX, it was poor calls on the part of Mike McCarthy from all the way back in the first quarter that contributed to Seattle being in perfect position to force overtime.

That’s the issue, I’ve come to realize, with Pete’s philosophy. It leaves them riding a razor wire.Once, we won ugly often enough to put together a pair of championship runs. That lightning is unlikely to strike thrice, given the advancing age of cornerstones like Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas and the improvement of the division, without a total rebuild. Yet the offense continues to dither around for three quarters while we expect great things from the fourth…why? For what beneficial tradeoff?

This isn’t calling for Pete’s head. He’s the best coach we’ve ever had.

Neither is this asking for a rigid philosophy of always throwing short. That, too, would get predictable. Each philosophy has its upsides.

This is simply saying that Seattle has other proven tools at their disposal. The offensive issues were never going to depart with Darell Bevell, because he was never the problem (even as he wasn’t a scintillating solution, either). The problem lies, amongst other things, in an overreliance on the big play at the expense of moving the chains. It’s worth asking why the coaching staff aren’t adapting to the hand they’ve been dealt (a hand that now includes a declined defense), and it’s worth asking whether pride in philosophy is worth defining Russell Wilson’s prime with mediocrity.

 

106 Responses to “Seattle’s Deep Ball Issue and Why It Wasn’t Going to Leave with Darell Bevell”

  1. DC says:

    Thanks for writing. The best coaches adapt to the situation and make adjustments. We know Pete has done this in the past, acknowledging those games you highlighted. Will he choose to do so again or has he become inflexible, stubborn? Is the fire gone? Quite possibly.

  2. Rob Staton says:

    Great piece by Brandon here. Lot of time and respect for his writing and great to see him put this very detailed piece together.

    If you didn’t catch it earlier — here’s a link to a podcast appearance I did last night. Check it out, as we go into detail on Seattle’s loss to Denver http://seahawksdraftblog.com/podcast-appearance-reviewing-week-one-in-denver

  3. FresnoHawk says:

    2019 is special for the Hawks because ALL of the offensive weapons can catch the ball! Russell needs to spread it around to include all WR’s I think that will help a lot. He needs to keep doing it again & again. We have a couple of games coming up against defenses who have terrible safety’s. 5th round pick KJ Wright is to be replaced by 5th round pick Griffith and 5th round pick Sherman is to be replaced by 5th round Flowers if this works were gonna be better than ever at CB & LB, people don’t like it when Pete replaces Pro Bowlers with a safety & a 1 handed DE, I love it!

  4. Beastmode602 says:

    I have been saying this for a while now. It is time for Pete to do a little adapting. How many times are we gonna see teams light us up with short throws? I know from playing DB myself that I would be ready to jump some of those short routes that every team throws at us. I understand the bend don’t break D. The problem is that we are bending and breaking. I think not having Baldwin is really going to be hard on Wilson. He is his security blanket. Time for Moore to step up and be a good WR now.

  5. UkAlex6674 says:

    What a wonderful write up. Top drawer. I agree you can lose a game in the first quarter. I’ve never been sold on its not how you start it’s how you finish. To me it’s both equally important.

    • smitty1547 says:

      Might not be able to win a game in the first half but we have proven you can lose them when you don’t show up until halfway through the second qrt.

  6. Positively masterful piece, sir.

  7. Volume12 says:

    Great piece, if a little long. 😉 The explosive plays and PA obviously let Seattle hang around, get them back into a game quickly if need be, allow for RW to take sacks due to those 2 things (not spinning backwards), but as the piece alludes to that’s all this offense has ever been and seems to ever will be. AKA chunk plays here and there and way too inconsistent.

    Russell Wilson’s backyard style is also a huge factor in them taking tons of deep shots.

  8. Kenny Sloth says:

    Good fanpost on fieldgulls detailing snap-to-throw times from the Broncos game. This was a great expansion on some ideas mentioned there. Thorough and detailed, good stuff

    • Brandon Adams says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. That fanpost, though, appears to be blaming Wilson. In regards to the first play, at least, sending two receivers out on routes the first play of a road game in Week 1 against a pass rush like Denver’s is only setting Wilson up for failure. Schotty probably gambled that the combination of Ifedi, Vannett, and a second TE on the right side would be enough to stop two pass rushers. The two rushers beat the three protectors.

      It’s time to quit gambling and start protecting Wilson with the playbook.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        On second read away from work, yeah, I generally steer away from playing the blame game on single plays.

        Our tenets have been the explosive play controlling the TOP and the TO battle. Why the loss of that philosophy? Have we over emphasized the big play at the expense of TOP

        You really drive home the philisophical issues which I think definitely belongs here.

    • Sea Mode says:

      Saw that. There’s a good one up on Justin Britt as well.

  9. C-Dog says:

    Well thought out, Brandon. Thank you for this.

    • Brandon Adams says:

      I’ve always been one of Wilson’s harshest critics and don’t disagree with anything written there. But that’s not what this article is about.

  10. SgtPeppy says:

    Great post! I’d say our offense has also been held back by an inexplicable sloppiness, and that has to be on the coaching staff as well. JR Sweezys holding call on the screen last week wiped out a 40+ yard drive and sure points. Similarly, we always seem to be caught for offensive PI more that other teams that act and scheme better (looking at you Kearse). Seems like we get a avoidable drive killing penalty more than other offenses, and a consistent well oiled offense avoids those mistakes.

  11. 80SLargent says:

    Now that’s a mic drop piece.

  12. Bigten says:

    Looks like JS/PC might be listening to you Rob. You called him out on the lack of LB depth, so they sign Mychal Kendrick’s. Super pumped for the signing.

    • Rob Staton says:

      They needed to do something

    • Group captain mandrake says:

      Good. If KJ is still injured they don’t have much past Bobby. As much as I like Shaquem, he is not ready to be a starter.

    • Aaron says:

      Finally a solid ILB! Only problem is he could be suspended by the NFL soon, right? Wonder if this means KJ is going to be out longer than expected. Bobby also showed up on the injury report today too…yikes!

      • GoHawksDani says:

        He will go to jail in december or january. Insider trading, so at least didn’t beat up/killed anybody, or drink/smoked and drive or something like that. Not sure how much he can play, and if the NFL will suspend him and when. But I like the signing. He probably cost very little and he’s a good player and not a bad guy, just made something stupid

  13. kevin mullen says:

    Ultimately the draft picks he’s made in years past has caught up with us, the busts are more so than hits: McDowell (2017), Ifedi (2016), Trading for Jimmy Graham (2015), Paul Richardson (2014), Christine Michael (2013).

    I don’t even think there’s many players left from the 2014 & 2015 draft classes, let alone any stand outs. We’ve been losing talent since the Super Bowl win, and my belief is that Pete’s been too far away from the college ranks to have a “feel” of players he had targeted from 2010 to 2012, we badly need the talents of he last two draft classes to bail us out.

  14. FresnoHawk says:

    The Kendrick’s signing should indicate why Grace is on the roster! If Grace is a slot back up he stays on the roster don’t forget Dion Jones is done for the year putting Grace on the practice squad risks loosing him, besides we got Grace on a nice cheap 2 yr. contract.

  15. neil says:

    Isn’t Kendrick’s going to jail? It wouldn’t hurt to adapt some of the pre Wilson/ Hasselbeck play book.They concentrated a lot on just moving the chains and the Hawks did pretty well. Wilson has so much more mobility than Hasselbeck, not to mention a better arm, I would like to see alittle new and old mixed together.

    • SeaHusky says:

      His sentencing got pushed back to January 2019. We likely only signed him for depth until Wright gets healthy, and Shaqueem can get his sea legs under him.

  16. FresnoHawk says:

    Kendrick’s is one of the best 2 down linebackers in the game, a punishing hitter! Perfect fit for our team! Nobody can say for sure how much time he’s gonna do but at least the investigation & trial is over, all he can do at this point is earn$$$ and win back the public trust. Also Kendrick’s is the 2nd former San Joaquin Valley high school player on the SeaHawk roster. Aleem King is the other player, King is due to break out at any moment, if he does our Secondary will be the best in the NFL. At the moment Seahawks are the best LB unit in the league. Thorpe earned high praise during camp if its true and King breaks out (King has been on deck to break out over a year but still hasn’t) Seahawks secondary will be the best in the league. That would be 2 units that are best in the league!

  17. Tyler Jorgensen says:

    I feel like everyone is now seeing what I’ve been seeing for a while now. Great article. I still love me some Wilson, and Pete, but I want some evolution from both of them, and I’m not sure either will, particularly if they stay together.

    So which will it be, and how long will it take?

    • CestrianHawk says:

      You seem to actually want a change in philosophy (not evolution), and Pete isn’t going going to change his (he’s not a young coach feeling his way and experimenting). Wilson has already demonstrated over long periods (ie not just one game) that he can excel in the alternative quick-release offence. He simply is delivering what Pete wants, which when it isn’t working too well, produces a barrage of criticism of his innate (QB) ability. A fair critique of any player is difficult (arguably impossible) without knowing what the specific scheme and responsibilities are.
      As you’re implying, I suspect Wilson won’t change his style unless he’s working under a different head coach. Personally, I don’t think this is a question of evolution, as he’s already shown he can excel in a different style of offence. In many ways he’s the ideal QB for Pete’s philosophy.

      • jdk says:

        This completely nails it. Wilson has shown that he can thrive in the kind of passing offense that his critics are accusing him of being unable to adapt to. On the balance of probability, it is a far more reasonable conclusion that he isn’t doing these things because he isn’t being asked to do them, not because he can’t.

        As great as he has been, I think it is time to replace Pete.

      • Brandon Adams says:

        It’s fair to say that Pete wants SOMETHING different from Wilson, because the offseason literature has discussed at great length why Schottenheimer was brought in – to bring Wilson the accountability that Bevell didn’t.

        But I’m not sure what it is that Pete wants, and I’m not so sure that Pete is correct in thinking Wilson is the problem. His own philosophy is playing a role here.

        • CestrianHawk says:

          Fair point. But the alternative explanation is that he simply felt Wilson needed an alternative input/critique after so many years of Bevell+same QB coach. There’s no evidence so far that Pete has changed philosophy or wants a different style of play. So to my mind it looks more like Pete wanted to re-energise Wilson rather than convert him into something different. His choice of coaching staff also tends to support this view.

  18. Gohawks5151 says:

    Great piece. Appreciate all the research. Been saying this on several of the past posts. Schotty and Pete like a vertical offense. They are long routes. They don’t get the ball out early because they don’t want to. Its not the emphasis of the scheme. They don’t keep teams honest because they don’t stick to the run enough either. We don’t do much to find favorable matchups outside of thowing it to tall guys and hoping they come down with it. When they actually scheme stuff like Procise in New England we do OK. Im e couraged by Russ hitting the backs though. Many 3rd and manageables on. Sunday compared to the past

  19. Saxon says:

    Nice article, Mr. Adams. Curious how much of Russ holding the ball overlong has to do with “pedestrian WRs” not uncovering? I know the best QBs can throw their receivers open, but Pete’s rational obsession with ball control suggests Russell may be dissuaded from throwing 50/50 balls due to the risk. Thus he has to wait a tick longer for a clean WR to break free, thereby exposing himself to hits. I think if Wilson were playing with elite seperators, like Antonio Brown, the ball would be out faster.

    But still, in Wilson’s defense: a) we didn’t have Baldwin b) we had several new receivers with whom Russ still needs to build a rapport c) we’re running a new offense d) line play was poor. Russ is not the problem. He needs an elite playmaker at WR and better protection. He really hasn’t had either in his career and yet is a borderline mvp candidate every year.

    I also don’t think it’s Carroll’s fault. He wants a low risk ball control offense (and, yes, throwing deep is actually less risky than a 15 yard crossing route). Carroll’s true offense hasn’t been available for two plus years due to injuries at tailback. When we can reestablish the run and return to true play action offense and perhaps mix in a little RPO, Russ will be on fire. Watch….

    Still, Wilson is no

    • Brandon Adams says:

      Baldwin being out is a problem.

      BTW, you’ve hit on another reason that having Jimmy Graham was so important: he didn’t need separation. I get that he was expensive, but 1) how do you overprice ten touchdowns in a season, and 2) without a tall guy who can box out and post up, your OC needs to work even harder to scheme receivers open. And THEN Baldwin goes down.

      You’re also bang on in that Pete’s low risk offense is what keeps Seattle in games. But more and more lately, it seems to be keeping us in games while simultaneously keeping us out of the win column. Attrition does that to you.

    • STTBM says:

      I think Doug Baldwin would strongly disagree with that take. And for good reason. He’s viewed as the best slot WR in the entire NFL, and for good reason. And he can play outside. He pretty much called out Wilson last year when he chewed the Medias asses, telling them to watch the film. While they were bagging on the Oline (which in no way was good), Baldiwn was telling them to watch the film, it was something else, and he couldnt come out and say what, since he had to Protect the Team.

      What do you think he meant? I firmly believe he was calling out Wilson for refusing to throw to guys unless they were wide open, and refusing to throw guys open. Those two things, especially early in games and in the Red Zone, have been a common denominator in Wilsons bad games the last few years. How many times did we see Tate get open in the back of the end zone, and Wilson wait too long to throw?! That is still going on with other WR’s.

      Its not the WR’s, its Wilson being too chicken shit to throw into tight windows. When he does, things go well. Unfortunately, Carl Smith and Carrol have trained Wilson to avoid risk a bit too much. And we see the results. It seems even Carrol is becoming frustrated with Wilson not having guts early in games.

      Play-action passing only works when you have a run game folks fear. We have no such thing. And if you come out play action passing, but dont run much, you are simply further degrading the success of the play action pass. Seattle is only good at running, and the play action pass, when Wilson is both running the Read Option AND scrambling for good positive yards on broken pass plays from time to time.

      Wilson seems to over-correct every few games; first he’ll run too early and too often, and throw short too much, even when his protection is decent. Then, he’ll hold the ball in the face of blown protection, taking sack after sack (as he did last week) and keep trying to throw deep, ignoring checkdown backs who are wide open early, only to try to float a pass to those backs after the defense covers them (again, as we saw last week).

      Last week was a total team failure, from Carrol to his coordinators to Wilson and the Oline. They all need to get on the same page, and 1) stop expecting the Oline to hold for more than 2 seconds, 2) Run the Read-Option and Run/Pass options, 3) Encourage Wilson to run at certain times if the there is room and the down and distance warrant it, rather than running around waiting for a deep target that never comes open. 4) Actually, factually, commit to the run. This does not mean run on first and second down regardless of outcome no matter what, but it does mean dont throw the damn ball deep every time on third and inches. And it means find a way to get Carson 20 plus carries per game, and also use Prosise as if he were durable–at least until he breaks.

      And designing plays to target your weekly opponents weak links, as Denver did continually to us last week, and Seattle didnt do much of, would be welcome too.

  20. Pran says:

    Amazingly written. after watching the NFC championship game against Packers (while going thru this article) and reading this, i concur. We need Elite defense and Run game to complement Russ to win the games the way we won. Both defense and elite run game are missing now…Russ is no Rodgers and Receiving corps are no elite too make up the deficit. Pete need to mix and match to use the games against Eagles and Pats as the templates while he shores up run game and defense to where it was. Unfortunately Pete does not have that much time (age)…so here we are at the cross roads. We need creative master minds as coordinators in these times….

  21. Georgia Hawk says:

    I think the problem here is further compounded by Pete bringing in other coaches that either follow the same philosophy as him (i.e. were raised in his system) or ones he is familiar with that don’t have an original bone in their body. The big complaint about Shotty was his willingness to do what the coach wanted to a fault, and overall lack of originality and ideas. Norton was brought back not because he was such a great DC, but because he was familiar with Pete and a bunch of the players on the D.

    Technically the hawks turned over a lot of the coaching staff this off season. The names are different but nothing has really changed. I guess that’s the TL:DR version of your article Brandon!

    Have to wonder if Pete has “comforted” himself to a rough year with a hot chair awaiting.

    • 12th chuck says:

      to be fair, Shotty said he was going to fit into this offense, not the other way around. It is no surprise the o looks the same, it will take time foe things to change

  22. Isaac says:

    I have been pounding the table for the 2015 post Graham injury Russell Wilson. That version of this offense was deadly. It may have been the best offense in football at the time. Is Pete holding this team back? Is the dead money from kam’s deal holding the team back? Do we need a complete redo? Except a 3 year overhaul and move on.

    • Brandon Adams says:

      The turning point in 2015 was the bye – two weeks before Graham’s injury – and the new spread concepts Bevell installed during that time. The first game back from the bye (vs. ARI), Baldwin went off for something like nine receptions and Wilson was getting things done. The next game (PIT), Graham had two big 3rd-and-10+ jailbreak receptions and a big bobbling catch at the goal line before hitting the injury. So Graham was benefiting from the changes as well.

      In 2016, Graham had only 5 TD’s but was spectacular between the 20’s. In 2017, he struggled moving the chains but became money in the red zone. He never put it together, and it’s hard to say why. But I do protest the narrative that Graham leaving the field was what lit Wilson up that year. The timeline doesn’t support that.

  23. A,Chris says:

    +1
    Very nice article Brandon. Much appreciated.
    Cheers

  24. Rob Bailey says:

    EPIC write-up and very much appreciated.

  25. GerryG says:

    The frustrating part to me is you can still take shots down the field AND run some higher success short drops. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    The opening play of last week to me confirmed everything in this article. Setting players up to fail.

  26. Kyle says:

    Welcome back, Brandon. I miss your 17Power blog, even if you’re now focusing on a Higher Power.

    Great insights, as always.

  27. STTBM says:

    Im with you Rob, for the most part. Your take on this is pretty much spot-on.

    I would add that Prosise getting hurt in 2016 really messed Seattle up; Bevell had made him a centerpiece of the offense, and without him, they couldnt run things the same. They had him for the NE game, and losing him a week or two later really seemed to mess with the offense, if I remember correctly (Im sure you’ll let me know if memory fails me lol).

    Also, I wonder that no one but me seems to place any blame for Wilson’s struggles on his ex-qb coach, Carl Smith (who is still with the team). His philosophies and teaching bear looking into. I believe its him and Carrol who insist Wilson throw jump balls on deep routes, rather than trying to hit a guy like Lockett in stride, because they believe that has less risk. Those types of throws are one thing keeping Wilson from being an elite passer.

    Another thing is that in those plays from the Eagles game, you can see Wilson doing things our offense has since utterly abandoned; the read-option, and run-pass options. I firmly believe that without Wilson running a good deal, Seattle’s offensive style wont work. Period. Also obvious in those Eagles game plays from last year are offensive line STRUGGLING to block on pretty much every play. They held their own for no more than 2.0 seconds, and often were failing in 1.0 second or less. It was a terrifically poor showing, and yet, as you point out, Seattle’s gameplan mostly worked–IN SPITE of the poor O-line blocking. This is not league-average bad, this is bottom of the barrel bad. And that trend has not improved, despite “continuity” and a new OL coach. To me, that says its time to look at blowing up the line entirely, if not the entire coaching staff.

    The other thing not touched on in your article is Hubris. Its quite likely that after a couple HUGE drafts and a Super Bowl win and 2 appearances, that JS and PC got cocky, and felt they could do no wrong. We all bought into that idea, as if Shermans, Chancellors, and Maxwells would continue to be found in the later rounds, and Wagner and Wrights would continue to be found after round One. That did not happen. In fact, Seattle had four drafts in a row that appear to have been near total busts. Right now, we have only Lockett and Reed to show for them, though Ifedi has one last year to put it together, and Irvin may not have lived up to his draft slot, but is a fine player and is missed. So the myth of JS and PC being able to ace drafts because of their superior talent evaluation is proven wrong. They got lucky. Now, Im not saying it was all luck, but without the pipeline of players Carrol had recruited or played against or scouted, their drafts have stunk.

    Now, this years draft has potential to right the ship, but it wont erase four straight years of utter whiffs. I think JS and PC were somewhat humbled, and refocused and put in the work. This shows in the early returns of their draft class.

    One thing JS said that really bugged me is when he lamented that players they brought in were comfortable just backing up Earl, SHerm, and Thomas; as if those guys would magically have transformed from scrubs who never made much of a dent in the NFL, to studs, simply due to competing and not being in awe of such great players. As if Seattle’s staff could have coached them up to be Pro Bowlers, and it was those HOF caliber players presence that stunted them. Im not buying it! Those backups never made it, not simply because they were in awe of the LOB, but becuase they werent great football players! Just because they had freak physical profiles does not mean they could necessarily be coached to be great football players. And that has proven the case.

    Its as if JS was saying that they would have been better off with lesser starters at Sherm, Chancellor and Thomas’ positions, since then the players drafted to replace them wouldnt have been in awe and would have become studs. Or something. And thats a crock. They just did a crap job drafting to replace those guys, other than Shaquille Griffin.

    I really like your article, just had some thoughts of my own on what is contributing to their malaise.

    • Hawk Eye says:

      have to agree on the hubris part
      it takes down empires on a regular basis
      I think that also lead to JS making a few bad trades and giving up 1st and 2nd rd picks because he probably believed he could keep finding guys just as good in the later rounds. In hindsight, he cleared overpaid for Percy, Jimmy and Sheldon. All 3 trades combined giving up both valuable draft capital AND cap space

      I don’t think they got lucky getting a lot of guys in the later rounds, but they somehow came to the wrong conclusions about how they found them. And they forgot that everyone else watched what the did and analysed it, changed what they did and the Hawks never adjusted.

      it does appear they have done some self examination this year, but it is still too early to see if they have it fixed. A winning record this year is not the scorecard to read. Russell has to take a step forward, the running game and oline have to be much better and there has to be some young kids step up on the defense. I think pass rush is something they will have to find next draft and offseason.

  28. STTBM says:

    And on Lawyer Milloy, I will say that he was, in fact, old, slow, and utterly washed up and shouldnt have been playing that year. Perhaps even Chancellor would have been beaten by surprise on that play, but Milloy had no chance–he was too slow.

  29. cha says:

    Ian Rapoport

    Verified account
     
    @RapSheet
    31m
    31 minutes ago

    More
    This is a new one: Former #Patriots and #Seahawks WR Amara Darboh, who failed a physical in New England, has reverted back to the Seattle Injured Reserve. His Seahawks contract was “reinstated,” per the transaction wire.

    • STTBM says:

      This is Seattle getting spanked. They and a Team Docs told Darboh he was healthy, and cut him. NE and their Docs said otherwise, and the NFL backed them up. Seattle has a long history of refusing to take care of guys they cut while hurt, or guys whose Seattle injuries showed up later. The word Ruthless fits.

      • Group captain mandrake says:

        Is it getting spanked though? I feel like they were going to try and get him to the PS anyway. Sure, it costs more to pay him his full salary but as a third rounder he doesn’t make that much.

        • BobbyK says:

          A practice squad player makes $7,600/week. This is $129,200/season. Darboh and his contract was set to be $578,000 this season. That’s a big difference to a guy who will never make a million dollars in the NFL (because he’s not good).

        • STTBM says:

          Its an opinion–of course I could be wrong! I have no inside info, Ive just been around the block and Ive read stuff on the internet that later–quickly–was scrubbed regarding Seattle’s behavior towards non-stars who get hurt, and former players with long-term injuries. Ive been a fan for over 35 years, and Im not blind towards the Franchise’s dark side.

          Perhaps Seattle wasnt being nefarious–but I find it likely they were. Otherwise there wouldnt have been such a disparity between the two team docs, nor would Darboh have immediately had surgery after being failed on his physical in NE. If Seattle was acting right, he might have had surgery elsewhere or allowed Seattle to look at his injury again. The immediate surgery forced Seattle to pay him his season pay not just PS, and was likely done at the behest of his agent, who is no dummy. He did the right thing, and we’ll see how Seattle treats him next year. That will tell if they really wanted to keep him this year on the PS or whether is was just BS to weasel on the injury.

          Bobbyk–A bit harsh?! Kid has one year in, and has battled injuries. Given his backstory, Im inclined to give him a chance to figure it out. He has shown resiliency, and many WR’s take more than a year to acclimate to the NFL, just like Pass-rushing DE’s.

  30. Volume12 says:

    Anyone watch that BC/W. Forest game last night? I mentioned couple weeks ago that Seattle possibly had their eye on someone there. We know of HB AJ Dillon, DE Zach Allen, TE Tommy Sweney, and safeties Lukas Dennis (one of my personal favs), and big ol’ Will Harris. But one guy flying under the radar, isn’t that how they like ’em, caught my 👀

    BC DE Wyatt Ray. What a monster! In the backfield all night long with 4 sacks, controlled the run game. He’s so damn fun to watch. From St. Thomas Aquina HS in Florida which puts the most players in the NFL.

    • DC says:

      When I saw a picture of AJ Dillion I thought that he was Corey Dillon’s son at which point he was a must have. Upon further review he is not. Corey Dillon is still my fav Husky RB. How is AJ?

      • Volume12 says:

        Incredible. He’s not draft eligible this year, but barring injuries and assuming he keeps playing like he has the past 2 years, he’s the top back in 2020.

        Corey Dillon was great and is the better of the 2, but it’d be a toss up for me between him and Napoleon Kaufman.

  31. Hawk Eye says:

    Darboh back on Seattle IR, weird turn of events

  32. Just Me 77 says:

    Your excellent article is linked into FieldGulls via today’s Century-Links-9-14 article. So it’s getting a few more reads today. I loved your article so much that I recommended it in the comments section. However, the rest of the readers/commenters on FG were rather dismissive — though I don’t know if they were dismissive of your article or dismissive of my comment.

    The current wisdom over on FieldGulls is that Russell Wilson needs to improve his game. So I guess your article, which is more critical of Pete Carroll than of Wilson, goes against that current FG trend. Perhaps that’s why the FG community isn’t embracing what you have to say. That’s too bad, because I thought your insights were both perceptive and very timely.

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      It’s also a team effort – so there is plenty of blame for everyone.
      Why not add not enough preseason practice to the list? Seahawks have often looked pretty raggedy at the beginning of the season.

    • Brandon Adams says:

      If it hasn’t been recognized by now both that Pete Carroll likes the big play and the stats bear it out, I don’t know what to say. It’s self-evident.

      Besides, Wilson can certainly stand to up his game. That’s a factor, too. People have a hangup with wanting there to be only one problem.

  33. Chris says:

    I’m about done with you, Rob. It’s time you come back across the pond, and take a job in the Seahawks front office. Until you do so, I’m putting every loss on your shoulders, as a result of you not sharing your Seahawks intellect with the people who need to hear it. As always, excellent work!

  34. Volume12 says:

    This WR is loaded. Whew is it fun. Georgia’s Mecole Hardman has angle changing speed. Oklahoma’s ‘Hollywood’ Brown looks like the next buzzed about slot WR.

  35. Volume12 says:

    This is the 2nd game that ND’s Khalid Kareem (6’4, 265 lbs.) has flashed for me. He’s a dude.

    Love ND’s Jerry Tillery too.

  36. Volume12 says:

    Rob, you taken a look at Wyoming DE Carl Granderson?

    Interesting guy that I think will test really well. He flashes a lot. Productive, has the size, long, good burst, twitchy, but man he needs to improve his strength.

  37. John_s says:

    I like him and Oshane Ximines. Oshane has that swag and physicality that former Seahawks defenders had.

    • Volume12 says:

      I’ve heard his name mentioned, but haven’t seen him at all.

      Call it a wild guess, assumption, prediction or whatever, but I think Seattle is gonna really like Florida St DE Brian Burns. If they don’t already.

  38. Aaron says:

    So Bobby, KJ, and Doug are all out Sunday. Also looks like Flowers and Fluker are likely out too. Even Quill is questionable. It’s only week 2 and we’re already the walking wounded. Feels like this is gonna be a very long season *Assumes Fetal Position*

    • EBurgz says:

      I’m not stoked about the injuries either but damn. I’m sure glad you aren’t on the team with that kind of mentality. Vegas has us as favorites, you would think our own fans would have a little faith.

      I hope y’all are shocked and the ticket prices continue to fall. Go hawks.

  39. Volume12 says:

    LSU S Grant Delpit is a problem. Dude might be the best safety in the country.

  40. FresnoHawk says:

    Tom Johnson add 1 million to our cap space, waived because he’s a Compensation Free Agent! If he’s available we can resign him and he will not count against our free CFA’s that we lost! 2 down 3 more to go with 1 sitting on the NFI. Fluker &/or Stephenson will be waived at some point too, unless we decide Fluker is worth more than a comp pick next year. Mingo better step up or Kendrick’s could take his spot and we get 2 CPA draft picks next year. Very Important to root for Jimmy Grahm if he makes ProBowl our comp pick with be a 3rd vs. a 4th.

  41. FresnoHawk says:

    PS My prediction of the Schneider CPA strategy was posted here on the Seahawk Draft Blog! Nowhere else has anyone figured it out. OTC couldn’t figure it out and criticized Schneider, give me a break! John Schneider is a Genius, the Mychal Kendrick’s signing cements that fact! Paul Allen is a Genius we already know that but he’s gonna shine as an NFL owner. Pete Carroll is a Genius our new defense will rub it in the faces of the doubters!

  42. FresnoHawk says:

    I sure hope Reed moves to 3 Tech Monday! He looks like a better fit there IMO.

  43. Volume12 says:

    Depending on how long Baldwin is out Seattle should go get WR Josh Gordon on Monday.

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      Just heard CLE hasn’t released him yet. They’re going to try to trade him first. I’d be in favor of signing him as a FA, but not sure I’d give much for him. He has trouble being available for a variety of reasons.

      • Volume12 says:

        I mean I’m sure if they did everyone’s reaction would be ‘why?’ No different than the Mychal Kendricks signing. All I’m saying is, if we’re gonna be bad let’s f***ing do this thing and go all the way in.

  44. Ishmael says:

    Josh Gordon released by the Browns. Has to be worth a look.

    Don’t think we’re going to get the W tomorrow. The problem with the stars and scrubs approach to team building is when injuries inevitably come you get absolutely banged. Bobby and KJ both out is a killer.

    • Hawktalker#1 says:

      For what it’s worth, I am 100% positive we are not going to lose tomorrow.

    • STTBM says:

      The problem is, Gordon is a fool, and wants to play for Dallas or the Whiners. Sheesh! Sounds like great options for a guy with major substance abuse problems! The guy has been given chance after chance by the NFL and the Browns, and shows up hurt and on something–likely alcohol, because it leaves your system so much faster than other drugs they test for.

      THe Browns giving up on him is a huge 3 strikes. This kids LIFE is in danger, not just his career. Though, considering the state of the Hawks right now, we cant get worse with him…

  45. Mac says:

    With the fourth pick, the Seattle Seahawks select, Ed Oliver.

  46. Hawktalker#1 says:

    Ouch. No way . . . (I’m sure they’d trade down). 🙂

  47. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    What little I saw of Georgia today, Frosh OT Cade Mays stood out to my eye. I don’t know if he was in because the starting LT was injured, or if it was because they were playing Middle Tennessee at home, but I think he’s one to watch.

    This Huskies defense is tough as nails. Them boys bringing the pain vs Utah tonight. Excellent secondary just smothering the Ute WRs.

    I’ve said it many times, but so what, I’ll say it again: I’m a Gaskin fan.

    Also, Ute LB Chase Hanson looks pretty solid.

    About SEA on MNF – without Wags & KJ I just don’t see how they’ll be able to stop Jordan Howard. I think the offense will be able to score, but the D won’t hold up their end of the bargain. Hope I’m wrong. Nobody wants to start 0-2

    • Volume12 says:

      It wasn’t the best week of CFB in terms of match ups. Worst of the season so far. LSU/Auburn was great and Ohio St/TCU was fun. Next week looks a little light too. After that though the sprint is on.

  48. Barry says:

    Very meaty in-depth article, very cool!

    My issue with Bevell was that he didn’t ever seem to know the personnel of the opposition and take advantage of the weaknesses. To his credit he didn’t get in the way of his players and keep them from making plays but thats simple when the offense starts with a stud ‘back like Lynch. He never could figure out someone like Graham.

    Wilson as many have said has stopped developing. There was at least one blitz a good third year QB should have read coming off the CB. The two ugly sacks where he spun and ran right into the thankful arms of Von Miller. I’ve said it many times over the last three years, Wilson is afraid or just isn’t comfortable to step up in the pocket due to visibility issues. He misses many reads because of that issue and the good teams know this. In three years since it became obvious due to running game struggles he and the coaches have failed to adjust.

    • Elmer says:

      Do any of y’all think that Wilson’s play has anything to do with receivers being unable to get open quickly? Maybe the guy is just trying really hard to make chicken salad out of chicken s**t. Let’s give him some credit and hope that the coaching staff helps him with a quick-developing short passing game.

      • Brandon Adams says:

        Could be a factor. Seattle has never prioritized drafting finesse receivers. Doug Baldwin is an outlier in that regard. Seattle likes to play matchup football and factors 1v1 situations heavily into their plan.

      • Barry says:

        Elmer, I understand your concern over the WR’s. Thats not the case unfortunately. He’s not seeing the zones that are open on the routes, or anticipating them post snap either.

        • Elmer says:

          Thanks Barry!

          Just finished watching the first half. First impression is that the Hawks are outmanned at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Not a recipe for success. Poor Wilson is eating a lot of turf.

  49. Rad_man says:

    One component of the offense I see missing in recent years is the ‘blue line’ attack, where Russ throws it high and outside midway bwetwwen the hash marks and out of bounds ( the blue line). Russ was quite good at it and Tate was excellent at it. It’s a lower risk, faster developing play with chunk potential. But it’s been less and less a feature per my non systematic observation. Is that perceived decline real? If so is it scheme driven, talent driven, or philosophy driven?

  50. Largent80 says:

    Dang…. The defense is thrashed and with backups subbing for backups. Looks like the Hawks are going to get a top 10 draft pick this next year.