Author: Brandon Adams

Two Reasons Why Russell Wilson isn’t being Shortchanged by Pete Carroll

I wasn’t following Seahawks Twitter’s recent “most hated Seattleites” bracket all that closely, but if Pete Carroll wasn’t on there, he might be soon.

Seattle’s head coach, architect of two of the franchise’s NFC championships and its lone Lombardi trophy, is now considered by some to be the reason Russell Wilson deserves better than Seattle and is thus unlikely to stay.

The necessary rationalization has already taken place. Folks are already prepared to dismiss Carroll’s success as luck and a one-off, the casualty of an offensive system that is somehow outdated now but not five years ago, and has made Wilson incompatible with Seattle. They are conjecturing like mad telepaths on Wilson’s motives for his hardball approach: that the run-heavy Dallas game was the last straw, that Wilson wants to challenge himself by throwing more, and that he is pricing himself out of Seattle to get such an opportunity.

You’re seeing two versions of this: “Wilson deserves to play for a team that will utilize him”, and “Seattle shouldn’t pay 35 million a year for a QB in a run-first offense.”

Neither of these arguments makes much sense, or ever did.


Supposition #1: “Wilson deserves to play for a team that will properly utilize him.”

It’s typically assumed especially amongst sports media, that Wilson will be better utilized if he is asked to throw more.

It’s a superficial take that forgets one glaring aspect of Wilson’s game: his conservatism. Wilson is as conservative a thrower as Pete Carroll is an offensive coach.

How, you ask, might Wilson look in the kind of byzantine, pundit-praised mad-bomber offensive system that Seattle fans so envy? He might look in many ways like he does now. Wilson has always been a cautious, conservative thrower (until the 4th quarter). That’s not something Pete had to beat into his brain during his rookie camp. He came with it. He believes in ball security, and it’s one reason you could argue that he is already as much at home philosophically, in Seattle, as he ever will be.

How are people missing this? Wilson has never been a gunslinger. He doesn’t want to be. You’re talking about a guy who drops back, refuses to throw into coverage, waits for big separation, scrambles while waiting, and generally would rather take a sack than risk a throw where there’s no opening. It’s hard to argue. The resulting lack of turnovers is what’s helped keep Seattle competitive in all but two games in Wilson’s seven-year career.

Are there systems out there that could enable more throws for Wilson? Yeah. But it’s not just about passing more. You’d need a team whose offense is largely devoted to creating separation, and that brings up the specter of a team that’s invested big money in its guards, receivers, and tight ends – and might not have a ton of room for Wilson’s megadeal. It would also be relying on a cheap and green defense. Sounds like the Saints, right? Well, they’ve had a bottom-five defense almost perennially since their Super Bowl win, the only exceptions coming when Seattle was around to escort them out of the playoffs.

I know some are a fan of that approach to the point of blind faith. I am not. Wilson might balk as well.

If Sean Payton got a hold of Wilson, he’d want that ball to be actually leaving Wilson’s hands every once in a while, and Wilson doesn’t like that without a somewhat high degree of certainty. Some coordinators want a straight-up riverboat gambler. That’s one very simple reason his skill set does not automatically translate to just any pass-heavy team. Some fans might think they’re doing Wilson a favor by urging him to another team, but they might not be.


Supposition #2: “Seattle shouldn’t pay 35 million a year for a QB in a run-first offense.”

This one is just sort of weird, because it assumes the difficulty of the quarterback’s job is dependent on volume. It isn’t.

It isn’t. It’s hard because championships require a quarterback who can improvise, and those throws don’t get easier just because there are fewer of them.

Every once in a while, no matter how strong the running game and defense, there will be moments where the quarterback has to create on third down. That was true for Wilson’s NFC championship runs, and it’s true for every other run. The question of “who really created our Super Bowl season – Lynch, Wilson, or the defense” is a distraction. You need a complete team. Seattle had one, and it included a franchise QB who produced when the chips were down. Indeed, few QB’s in the league’s history have excelled at this quality, much less entertained fantastically with it, like Russell Wilson. It’s why he’s elite, despite only one Super Bowl ring. (Unless you think Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers’ one ring disqualifies them from elite status, too. And no, you didn’t think that until you read this paragraph.)

Seattle’s offense could feature a 70%-30% run-to-pass ratio and those tough throws would still be absolutely mandatory to a championship season. They don’t get easier because there are fewer of them.

Will a game manager like Tarvaris Jackson, or a rickety veteran like Eli Manning, or a career backup like Paxton Lynch make those clutch throws? I highly doubt it. Maybe one or two, but you’re massively narrowing the margin for error there. Teams win or lose Super Bowls by that margin.

A quarterback coming cheaper doesn’t make him a “better fit for Seattle”. I would say “that logic is absurd”, but it doesn’t deserve to be called logic. It’s really just passive-aggressive frustration with the Dallas game.

So, is Russell Wilson, even in Pete Carroll’s relatively run-heavy offense, worth $35 million a year? You bet he is. Yes, even if he’s not throwing as much. Simply because the sheer skill requirements of the position will never permit a lesser QB to succeed.

If you don’t like this, you’re free to speak to the NFL. They’re the ones who have made the quarterback position (and its natural predator the edge rusher – re: Frank Clark) so earth-haltingly important through the slow shifting of its offensive rules. It’s the way things are now. Just how complete an NFL team can be once Wilson (and Patrick Mahomes after him) blast the market open is a fair question, but make no mistake, Wilson – or a QB of his caliber – will be needed.

Letting passing volume dictate contract size would be failing for cheaper. It’s time to start cutting that out of the discussion.


2018 is Salvaging Carroll and Schneider’s Personnel Reputation: Part 1, Drafts

Right up until five weeks ago, the drafting reputation of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider had faded from Midas’ touch to fools’ gold.

Rewind to the end of last season and it’s easy to see why. As of that moment, of the entire previous two drafts, only a single Seahawks draftee – Shaquill Griffin – had cemented himself as an undisputed starter.

The rest was a mess. First pick Malik McDowell was sidelined…permanently, as it turned out. Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones, and Quinton Jefferson looked like decent rotational pieces on the defensive line, with Reed perhaps trending upwards the most, but that was it. Nick Vannett wasn’t doing much. Ethan Pocic was starting by default but the consensus was “Bulk up, sir”. C.J. Prosise was over in the blue tent doing his best Humpty-Dumpty impersonation. Chris Carson, despite an exciting September, had yet to prove doubters wrong about his durability (he had major injuries in high school and college – a large part of why he fell in the draft). The rest of the 2017 draft haul, aside from a few stray Amara Darboh receptions, was buried on the depth chart, while Alex Collins had escaped the quagmire to a stellar season in Baltimore.

And Germain Ifedi – well, we knew about him. Or thought we did.

One undisputed starter out of two drafts. That’s simply not a viable rate of return.

How quickly the tide can turn. The 2018 season hasn’t just turned around the Seahawks’ drafting fortunes with the best first-year returns far and away since 2012, it’s vindicating past drafts as well. Or it should be.

Two things are hard to beat: a narrative, and being spoiled. Seahawks fans are saddled with both. Changing the perception that Seattle’s drafting sucked wastewater for five years straight is like tacking an ocean liner, and it’s not helped by the fact that Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider began their tenure here by knocking three straight drafts absolutely out of the park. The expectation is that they should be doing it repeatedly. Whether that’s possible, or fair to expect, is another discussion. But we’re definitely having to adjust to a “new normal”.

Well, nothing cures like winning. Seattle has won four of their last five in decidedly dominant fashion. That puts us on fertile ground for growing new narratives.

Visual aids are nice when it comes to getting the full picture of something. I wanted to take a shot at quantifying Carroll and Schneider’s drafting work by color-coding. Here’s their resume, broken down by year (sorry if it looks weird, just click on it – I’m bad at this).

We can see the hole right away. Pretending that Pete and John’s draft room work has been one long, unbroken streak of success is just that, pretending.

Yet I think I can argue that it’s not as bad as it was made out to be.

First is the 2013 draft. Seattle found three starters there, two of which promptly ended up on other teams. Luke Willson will forever hold a place in the twelves’ hearts for his knack for clutch plays in big games, but let’s not pretend this was a good draft.

However, 2013 was bad for everyone. It’s easily labeled the most talent-deprived year in recently NFL history. So…maybe a little slack for Pete and John there?

That brings us to 2014 and 2015. I can’t argue that it was good. But where it really hurt was depth. You need to be finding, if not starters, then some valuable backups and bit players in the late rounds, and while Seattle fans felt that guys like Richardson, Lockett, Britt, and Clark were middle-of-the-road starters at least, nobody after pick #2 in those years was with the team for very long. Pete and John did not replicate their usual magic of finding gold in the later rounds.

Now, there is the argument that it’s difficult to break onto a roster like the Seahawks’, which remained one of the NFL’s most indisputably talented rosters up through 2015. But countering that argument is the fact that none of these guys fought their way into the backup list either, or latched on anywhere else in the league. You’re always drafting for the future. You draft a Kevin Norwood hoping he can replace the void left by Golden Tate. You draft a Winston Guy hoping he can become another Kam Chancellor so that the team needn’t hand a crippling contract extension to an aging player out of lack of choice. You want the draft to be a steady conveyor belt of talent that ideally…ideally…gives the team constant flexibility in their negotiations with incumbent players.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Again…it is somewhat rich to expect Seattle to pull off 2010-2012 every year. That three-year span wasn’t normal. It was arguably one of the greatest drafting spans in NFL history. Three Pro Bowlers per year (if you include the undrafted Doug Baldwin) and seven viable starters to boot? Even the Patriots don’t do that.

But…they needed to be better than 2013-2017, too. Or at least that’s where opinion stood after the Bears game.

Enter the Cowboys.

Intelligence operatives are still working to discover exactly what got into the Seahawks as they played the ailing team from Texas, but it has jump-started an astonishing turnaround that is redeeming a lot of Pete and John’s drafting work.

All of a sudden, Clark, Britt, and Lockett aren’t just Pro Bowl subs and rumors – they’re worthy of prime position in the discussion (or would be, if 4-3 defensive ends ever were). Lockett got paid and got better; he’s having a career year. Clark you know about. Britt is part of an offensive line that is mauling the league’s premiere defensive linemen into the turf (check out this hilariously verbose praise-piling by Brian Baldinger – as obnoxiously obsessed as he was over our OL suck last year, his obsession is a good thing this year). Remember when we thought Britt was a man without a position and we never thought he’d amount to anything?

Vannett is a reliable catcher and has made noticeable improvements in his blocking. Jefferson is putting on the pressure. Hunt turned heads with his short spell of Britt. None of these guys are Pro Bowlers, but then again, they have only mid-round draft stock to live up to. For where they were picked, these are satisfactory returns.

Jarran Reed needs to start getting more credit. He already had an excellent report card for a second-rounder just for replacing Brandon Mebane’s run-stuffing ability from day one. But now he’s following Mebane’s trajectory in picking up pass rush moves. He had a big play to cause (or help induce) a Matthew Stafford fumble yesterday. These are game-changing – season-changing moments.

Moving further forward, 2017 seventh-rounders Chris Carson and David Moore have leaped onto the national stage. Carson would be getting more accolades if he had touchdowns to go with his frankly Lynchian production, but he’s healthy, and he’s the core of Seattle’s renewed identity. I was a believer in Carson last year. I don’t blame Seattle for paying out the nose for insurance in the form of Rashaad Penny, but Carson doesn’t just look good – he looks All-Pro worthy. Any moment now, you’re going to see things get even easier for him, as defenders start making “business decisions” when confronted with tackling him. Moore, for his part – four touchdowns in seven games goes a nice way towards replacing Jimmy Graham’s production. A tall order, satisfied.

Elsewhere in the draft, Shaquill Griffin still has the #1 corner position locked down. He’s had a handful of rough plays since his two picks of Mitch Trubisky in Week 2, but let’s also remember that every time you see a quarterback hesitate and not throw the ball after three seconds (and there was plenty of that yesterday), that’s Griffin and Tedric Thompson doing their jobs in coverage. Bad defensive backs get thrown at without hesitation (as Russell Wilson did yesterday). Thompson is still swinging off receivers’ hips like hula hoops a little more often than I’d like – though so did Earl Thomas – but he makes up for it with bruising hits and big plays. He’s got mental resilience. That’s a mark of a lasting contributor.


Perhaps no Seahawks player exemplifies the sharp 180-degree turn of this team than much-maligned Germain Ifedi. The man is having fun out there, steamrolling Pro Bowlers and gashing lanes for his running backs. Playing next to a frothing grizzly like D.J. Fluker can’t hurt, nor can getting paired with tight-end-convert sensation George Fant (watch him seal his edge on Chris Carson’s TD yesterday like Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel). And you have to acknowledge the contribution of Mike Solari. But it took perseverance from Ifedi to stick with it, and persevere he did. It’s amazing what some confidence can do for a guy.

This is to say nothing of the 2018 draft, which from Week 1 has produced three undisputed starters, two legitimate depth guys from the late rounds (Jamarco Jones being one of them – watch for him next year), and three others who still have oodles of promise and plenty of development time before they should be getting any rightful criticism.

So we come to the question…just how badly did Seattle’s draft room really stumble in the Carroll era?

Not nearly that badly, for not nearly that long.

It was rough for a while. Recent years are not without their warts. Ethan Pocic and Nazair Jones have been played off the field, albeit by other guys that Pete and John acquired. C.J. Prosise’ injury doom was a gamble Pete and John lost. McDowell was a questionable pick for reasons that had little to do with his eventual injury (though, again, it’s an understandable selection when you remember that his upside was Calais Campbell).

But the value of better coaching and simple time is invaluable. We had some late bloomers and some head cases, yes. They’re playing well now. If a stumble invalidates genius, then even Bill Belichick sucks. And the spreadsheet that I showed above still has room for blue on the right side as time passes.

Guys, I have a sneaking suspicion that Pete and John are still pros at this drafting thing. And they’re reaping the rewards now. It’s time the narrative ship finished its tack.



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

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.”







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.


There’s No Magic Bullet for the Seahawks

There may be no one solution for the Seahawks except the long, hard slog of slowly getting better.

That is not a statement you want to read.

It’s disheartening.


Ambiguous and without a fruition date.

And it feels like letting the coaching staff off the hook – something nobody wanted to hear as Seattle was shellacked by the Rams, their playoff hopes (and the credibility of some idiot’s Super Bowl predictions) diminished to a sliver.

But it may be true.

I have a rule: our willingness to accept an explanation for our team’s problems varies directly with the perceived ease of fixing it. In other words, the simpler a perceived fix, the more interested we’ll be in pointing fingers there.

At the top of our popular “blame list”, therefore, usually sits Seattle’s coaching staff and offensive line. Perhaps that’s not entirely for no reason. The narrative of late is that Pete Carroll has lost the team, and the Jaguars and Rams losses have done little to stem the tide. Pete’s philosophies have downsides, like any philosophy does, and they are on full display at the moment. Yet the fact that Seattle’s coaching staff and offensive line are perceived by fans as being easiest to replace, doubtless plays a role in their status as Least Popular Elements of the Seahawks.

At the bottom of the blame list, typically, are injuries, execution, and Russell Wilson.

Not because they haven’t played a role, but because they’re harder to do anything about.

Nobody wants to hear the idea, especially, that Russell Wilson is partially responsible for the team’s struggles. That leads inevitably to the question of whether Wilson might need to be replaced (even though he doesn’t), and even the hint of going back to the awful, dark, years-long stagger of searching for a new franchise quarterback is repellent. Even in an ice-cold objective, by-the-numbers breakdown of Wilson’s play, all some folks hear is “Wilson will not lead us to another Super Bowl”, even if that’s the opposite of what’s being said. So we stick to the “easier” ideas, like switching out coaches (even though doing so isn’t necessarily easier).

I’m talking, of course, about scapegoat mentality. It plays a great role in subconsciously guiding our pointed fingers.

But it isn’t productive to ignore the myriad of factors that have played into Seattle’s almost-failed season.

1. Drops

How many drives have ended with brutal third-down drops by Seattle receivers? Jimmy Graham, touchdown machine that he became for a while, is responsible for seven or eight this year. C.J. Prosise and Tanner McEvoy shared two each in the loss to the Packers. Paul Richardson had three in a game. It doesn’t seem so bad until you learn to equate a drop with a stalled drive. When you do that, our offensive struggles this year take on a different character.

2. Injuries

Old? Overpaid? Over-the-hill?

How about injured?

It’s amazing the amount of talk about how the game has passed by a Legion of Boom that isn’t even on the field. People say Kam Chancellor has lost a step, but watch them pine for his return when he’s out for a few weeks. People jaw about how Richard Sherman has been giving up more in-breaking routes. Bet they want him back after watching quarterbacks no longer afraid to throw at Byron Maxwell and Shaquill Griffin (decent as they’ve been).

Injury also robbed Seattle of the most potent piece of Pete Carroll’s philosophy – the running game. Chris Carson won a 7-way starting competition in the preseason the same way Wilson won his back in 2012 – decisively. He was dynamic, complete, and the first sign of a true workhorse since Beastmode left town. 4.2 YPC before his injury. If anything was supposed to break this offense open, it was him.

And nobody talks about his injury as the top contributor that it is. Given the comical flop of our running game this year, could there have been a bigger contributor? How can you win winter games, or close, brutal, official-sabotaged contests, with no running game at all?

It isn’t satisfying, promising, or heartening to describe 2017 as an injury year. But there’s a very good case that that’s exactly what it is. Add K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to that equation against the Rams. You cannot overestimate the impact of these injuries piling on.

3. Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson is still a fantastic and special player, still holds the potential to win more Super Bowls, and should not be challenged as the franchise quarterback.

I’m getting that out into the open because, again, Wilson cannot be criticized without some people inevitably and instinctively worrying that his head is being called for. It’s not.

But Wilson absolutely deserves some criticism for his play since his master-class against the Eagles. Pete Carroll said as much today to Mike Salk, and Wilson himself has never been one to shy away from his culpability.

Slowly emerging into the blogosphere – very slowly, though a few national commentators have been on this point for years – is discussion of Wilson’s play against man coverage and Cover-4 schemes. It really shouldn’t be news that Wilson doesn’t consistently throw near coverage. Jacksonville and Los Angeles ran Cover-4 schemes against Wilson. Washington also played heavy man. So did Tampa last year. While the popular narrative is that these were all “comedown” losses for Seattle following exhausting emotional victories, they have one other thing in common: those opponents had the speed and quality at DB to discourage the conservative Wilson from a lot of passes and win the contested throws he did attempt. Those discouraged passes end up in the pressures-allowed and sacks-allowed column. It’s going to be worth examining (and I hope to get to it in the offseason) whether teams are actually regarding their secondary, not their front seven, as the key to defeating Wilson – especially a Wilson without a running game.

Again…none of this is satisfying right now.

Nobody wants to read that drops, injuries, Wilson, the offensive line, the lack of a running game, Pete Carroll’s philosophy, miscalculated trades, and simple on-field errors have all played a role in Seattle’s dropoff from their 2014 xenith.

Because there’s no fixing all that in one game.

There may be no one solution for the Seahawks except the long, hard slog of slowly getting better.

And while it’s a slog for us as well, it might be the truest explanation for the current state of the Seahawks.

6 Reasons You Can Get Excited About the 2017 Seahawks

I want to profusely thank my longtime friend Rob Staton for the opportunity to write for his blog. I might as well ask for his forgiveness now, too, while I’m at it. 

This is an optimism piece. Gird yourself accordingly.

Before the 2013 season started, I correctly predicted a Super Bowl win for the Seahawks that year. I even identified their eventual opponent.

That doesn’t mean much. I know nothing. And things are different this year.

Back then, I was impressed by the innovations of the Seahawks’ front office. They stood at the leading edge of early-decade evolutions in NFL play, finding ways to exploit market surpluses, setting trends that NFL teams still copy today. The 2013 road was bumpy for the Seahawks, requiring more than a few ridiculous narrow escapes from teams who had no business keeping up (Houston, Tennessee, Tampa). But they found ways to win, and in the end, their toughness and depth were a perfect Ragnarok for the finesse Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Walking into 2017, the Seahawks aren’t necessarily new anymore. Teams know about Russell Wilson. They’ve remembered that the run matters. Seattle’s simplistic, just-try-to-beat-us Cover 3 defense has been solved, at least enough to give opposing offenses a wedge in the door. Instead of holding a novelty advantage over the league, Seattle must rely on talent, depth, effort, and resilience.

No problem. They’ve still got that.

The 2017 offseason got me jazzed. Offseasons rarely do that. I’ve been seeing pretenders and fools’ gold everywhere since 2007, and my therapist doesn’t know what to do with me anymore. But this offseason was the first time since 2013 in which Seattle’s moves really seemed to be targeting 1) the unique strengths of the team and 2) the elements most commonly considered crucial to winning. It’s left me with a simmering optimism for the Seahawks’ 2017 prospects.

Here are six reasons why.


1. Special Teams

Depth, depth, depth.

It was one of the least recognized, most essential aspects of our 2013 run. It insulated the Seahawks’ playoffs chances from injuries, and it strengthened special teams.

Do you remember when we used to lean forward in anticipation with every Steven Haushcka kickoff, waiting for someone to fly down and knock the ball loose from the opposing returner’s hands? I remember. Pepperidge Farm remembers. Winning the field position battle and generating the occasional special teams turnover was an enormous defensive advantage that year – and something that took a precipitous drop for Seattle in 2016, partially, perhaps, due to losing influential gunner extraordinare Ricardo Lockette:

2013: 25.8 yard line (starting field position for opponents)
2014: 25.7
2015: 23.8
2016: 28.4

(source: Pro Football Reference)

This year, depth has returned to Seattle, like salmon returning home (weird analogy, but I’m hungry). If preseason proves one thing, it’s the quality of its depth.

And it should, at least in theory, bolster their special teams unit. Seattle’s focus on drafting defensive backs higher than normal wasn’t just an attempt to reload the aging Legion of Boom – it was an effort to bring nastiness back to special teams. S Delano Hill was a particularly intriguing move on that front. Throw in underrated moves like trading for proven special teams ace DJ Alexander, our embarrassment of riches at RB/hybrid WR, and our acquisitions at linebacker, and Seattle could have the makings for a championship-caliber special teams unit. Not a factor to be underrated.

Speaking of which…


2. Options at running back

It wasn’t until I saw SI’s Andy Benoit waxing poetic about the Atlanta Falcons’ running backs, and how many options they afford the offense, that Seattle’s moves at the position snapped into focus for me.

It’s not just about sandbagging against injury. All these running backs and hybrid WR’s? Seattle wants to be the Falcons. Or, as you might have suspected after the NFL’s opener on Thursday, the Chiefs, whose head coach Andy Reid is matched by no-one at employing running backs downfield.

Having talented running backs who can run routes and disguise offensive looks is worth its weight in gold. That’s why it’s hard to get consterned over Seattle’s seemingly thin WR roster, which after Jermaine Kearse’s departure seems to pretty much end (at least as far as proven experience is concerned) after three small and somewhat injury-prone guys. It actually doesn’t end there. C.J. Prosise brings a proven ability to get vertical and force offenses to reveal coverages just by lining out wide. They’re hoping J.D. McKissic can do the same; his potential at mimicking both Prosise and WR Tyler Lockett’s skill sets went a long way towards securing him a roster spot. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls are at least decent pass-catchers. Even rookie Chris Carson showed some chops here in the preseason.

This is the most hauntingly intriguing assortment of Swiss-army knife RB’s Seattle has had in years. IT’s fair to mention that Seattle’s limited options at tight end might cap our efforts to be the Falcons. But should Darell Bevell find ways to maximize this potential (and keep everyone healthy) while getting the read-option working again, Seattle’s opponents could still find themselves with their hands full.

Speaking of which…


3. Russell Wilson’s health

I pushed this down a bit in an attempt to be different, but it could just easily go #1.

Everyone noticed when Wilson got slow last year. Folks assumed it came courtesy of an ankle crush by Ndamukong Suh in Week 1 against Miami. What only a few observant fans noticed is that he was already looking slower during the preseason. Media literature confirmed that Wilson had intentionally bulked up somewhat over the 2016 offseason as part of an injury-prevention program. The ankle tweak in Week 1 slowed him further, and in Week 3 he was sacked awkwardly by a spying San Francisco linebacker on a rollout play (by definition not the offensive line’s fault, it’s worth mentioning), leaving him gimpy for most of the season and hampering Seattle’s running game into the bargain.

The lesson learned, apparently, is that the best way for Wilson to absorb hits (and the biggest benefit to Seattle’s running game) is to avoid taking them at all.

This year, Wilson is back to his spry 2015 weight and looked red-hot during the preseason. He should be a danger to take off from the read-option again. That’s one of those things that Seattle’s opponents know about but can’t stop without either having a Pro Bowl defensive line (ahem Rams cough) or making sacrifices elsewhere on defense. Remember Mike Holmgren famously saying that he didn’t care if he was predictable as long as the predictable was unstoppable? As long as Wilson’s healthy, Seattle is in a similar position.

Speaking of which…


4. Pass rush

You have no idea how depressed I got when top draft pick DT Malik McDowell was lost to the team.

Forget the offensive line for a moment. It’s the defensive line that’s quietly been the biggest bugaboo in Seattle’s shoe since 2014. A deep, consistent pass rush that can generate pressure without blitzing is a must-have when you’re targeting the big dance.

Seattle hasn’t had that for years. It’s well-known to the attentive that Seattle’s postseason demise in both 2012 and 2014 came partially at the hands of injuries to crucial pass rushers (Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril respectively, with Jordan Hill lost earlier in the 2014 season).

Avril and (surely you’ve noticed) Michael Bennett remain on the roster, but their effectiveness came into question towards the end of 2016. Seattle’s lack of pressure against Falcons QB Matt Ryan last year wasn’t necessarily the end of their effectiveness so much as Ryan having a career game from the pocket in his own right (against a defense lacking Earl Thomas). But the fact remains that, while both Avril and Bennett have the attitude and resilience to join the ranks of the league’s long-suffering Dwight Freeney’s, they’re also on the wrong side of 30, and Seattle would have been fools to not make contingency plans. DE Jarran Reed is an excellent Brandon Mebane replacement but not a QB-reacher, nobody else on the interior has really stood out over the years, and it was unfair to ask (admittedly scintillating) edge rusher Frank Clark to shoulder the load alone. Seattle needed an interior penetrator.

Enter Malik McDowell. There were questions about his effort, but otherwise? Calais Campbell upside. He could have been the answer to Seattle’s pass rush problems, possibly even the most impactful Seattle draftee since Russell Wilson himself. That’s the importance of interior pass rush.

Welp…he got injured. Despite being sighted in Seattle’s locker room, I am operating on the assumption that he won’t play this year.

But then Seattle pirouetted magnificently from the blow and landed DE Sheldon Richardson in a trade from the Jets. Richardson is young, undeniably disruptive against both pass and run, and, as Rob has written before, NOT as un-re-signable as some are saying. It would take some doing, but as Seattle found with Jimmy Graham, there is the sense that sometimes you just have to open your wallet. Few positions are worth it like interior defensive tackle.

Thanks to Sheldon, Clark, the still-intense duo of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell (if he somehow returns this year), Seattle has, on paper, the ability to puncture pockets, stuff talented running backs, and pressure quarterbacks into errant throws without overtaxing their linebackers, not to mention the depth to keep their line fresh. More than any season since Red Bryant’s departure after 2013, offensive coordinators will be awake at night when thinking about the Seahawks.


5. The schedule

I’m trying not to be fooled by this. Schedules can change; underdogs can emerge.

But Seattle has avoided a lot of pitfalls on the schedule this year. The division is low. Arizona has lost defensive talent. San Francisco and St. Louis have giant flashing question marks at quarterback. Seattle faces only one 10am road game (a monkey Seattle actually ripped off its back years ago, but whatever), and it’s against Jacksonville. No back-to-back road games exist anywhere on the slate. Facing the Giants and the Cowboys on the road is a challenge (especially after the recent news that Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott might be playing this year after all), but after that – manageable. Not gimmes, but quite manageable.


6. The back seven is still there

This defense boasts eight Pro Bowlers, several of whom are motivated to nab one more year of glory before getting separated by the excruciating contract decisions Seattle will have to make in the next few years. They’re hungry again, they’ve got Earl Thomas back, and they’re ready.

Call that a shallow take if you want, but the entirety of their dropoff last year can be explained by the loss of Earl to injury. They’ve got the best set of options at cornerback they’ve had in a while. I’m intrigued by LB Terence Garvin. They’ve dramatically improved their safety depth. Again…depth, depth, depth. The Seahawks have it back there in a way they haven’t since…yep…2013.



So…do I think the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl?

I’m going out on a limb and saying yes.

That’s just my call, and it always carries a bit of trepidation. You certainly don’t have to feel the same way. I know there are common reservations (I’d like to address those next week in another post). But that’s my prediction. It’s fun to make.

Many things have aligned right. There’s a pop to this September. Seattle managed 10.5 wins last year despite injuries to Wilson and Thomas, with a harsher schedule. Alter the outcome of three Hauschka kicks and it’s 12 wins. Reports of the demise of this championship window could well be greatly exaggerated when you look at the grand scheme.

There might be tough games. Seattle might barely squeak out wins against some bottom-feeders instead of looking terrifying week in and week out like the New England Belichicks (which is what most fans prefer to our ragged, ugly 2013 run). But winning ugly can still bring you a Lombardi.

I’m hoping for a revenge win against the Belichicks in Minneapolis, personally, but I’ll take whomever feels like getting trampled.

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