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Pete Carroll just showed why Pete Carroll needs to go

Pete Carroll’s interview on Tuesday was… interesting

Pete Carroll’s interview on Seattle Sports radio on Tuesday was remarkable. As if the performance on the field and the shocking statistical analysis of the team wasn’t bad enough, now the coaches words are adding to the growing evidence that change is needed.

You can watch the whole interview here but I want to touch on two topics that were discussed.

Carroll suggested his team struggled against the run versus Pittsburgh because they were too focused on preventing explosive plays:

“I wanted to make sure that these guys did not have explosive pass plays in this game because they had just won the game the week before against Cincinnati, which was so different to how they’ve been playing, I wanted to make sure that was out of the game plan and I think maybe that was our first concern and it just got into our heads and we didn’t play right.”

This isn’t a huge surprise, given Carroll admitted they’d tried to do the same thing the prior week against the Titans. In both games they determined that stopping Ryan Tannehill and Mason Rudolph — two backups — was more important than trying to stop Tennessee and Pittsburgh running the ball.

This is despite Seattle having such a glaring weakness defending the run. It was inevitable both Mike Vrabel and Mike Tomlin would seek to exploit it. And they did, to the tune of 364 total rushing yards.

The Seahawks have allowed an average of 170 rushing yards over their past six games. Since week seven, no defense in the NFL has been worse at defending the run.

Any coach worth his salt was going to exploit this. Yet according to Carroll, the run defense was overlooked because they were so wholly focused on stopping explosive plays in passing games led by Tannehill and Rudolph.

What actually drove this approach specifically against Pittsburgh? According to Carroll, it’s the way the Steelers played against Cincinnati, even though he also admits this isn’t typically how Pittsburgh has had success on offense.

I went and had a look at what actually happened in that Bengals game. The Steelers had three big plays. A short pass to George Pickens, who with yards after the catch ran for an 86-yard touchdown. A 44-yard deep ball to Pickens before half-time which set up a field goal attempt. Then a 66-yarder for a touchdown after half-time.

That’s it.

Then I had a look at how the Bengals have typically faired with their pass defense. It’s the worst in the entire league for yards per attempt. They’re ranked 31st for air yards conceded. They’re last in the league for average depth of target when targeted as a defender. They’ve given up the fourth most passing yards in the NFL this season.

Explosive passing plays against the Bengals are a formality it seems. Yet because Pittsburgh had three big plays against arguably the worst defense in the league when it comes to explosive pass plays, Carroll tailored his defensive focus to stopping it.

Then Pittsburgh absolutely mullered them in the run game.

This is terrible planning. It’s barely believable.

If a first year coach was uttering stuff like this, people would be hysterical. Serious questions would be asked.

Why were they not committed to figuring out their own problem, which was run defense? Did the Seahawks not anticipate a Mike Tomlin-coached Steelers team would try to exploit Seattle’s own weakness, as they perhaps tried to do against Cincinnati the week before, and therefore would attack the run?

Would it not be a better bet to trust your pass rushers and defensive backs, many of which are highly paid and/or highly drafted, to limit Mason Rudolph and George Pickens, while focusing more on ensuring you don’t give up 202 rushing yards instead?

It’s not just an awful plan, it’s also a terrible explanation from the Head Coach on why they were so hopelessly bullied in the trenches. ‘Focusing on the pass’ doesn’t justify the missed tackles or the inability to play without a modicum of toughness. The idea that a team could just ‘take their eye off the ball’ when the run defense has been so utterly appalling for weeks — because you’re focusing on something else — isn’t an acceptable explanation and it’s a terrible excuse for playing soft.

It got worse in the interview when Carroll started talking about his own running game:

“(The running game element) has not been part of our team the way we would like it to be. Our average per rush, that’s not the point. It’s the style of the way you go about it. And we’ve not captured enough of the run game, to get that element as part of our makeup.”

“Najee (Harris) is 230lbs and he runs like it. He runs at you, he runs coming forward, he’s not going to be the flashy guy at all. He’s going to look for the opportunity to run through something, run through a tackle, bounce off a guy. That’s an element for them and to give you another example, the week before against the Titans and they’ve got that monster back there (Derrick Henry) that always brings that mentality. Those guys give you what you’re looking for. Our guys… Kenny (Walker) is a flashy, he’s going to make you miss, and he’s as quick as anyone can be. Explosive as anybody can be. And he runs physical too and Zach is more of the bigger back… but they’re still developing.”

Carroll went on to recall the Marshawn Lynch days and how that running style helped them run the ball with physicality, completing the ‘circle of toughness’.

So there you have it. The Seahawks spent two second round picks on running backs but despite the major, premium picks used on both — neither is capable (currently) of producing a running game because they lack the physicality of Lynch, Harris or Henry.

There are two major problems here:

1. If using high picks on running backs doesn’t guarantee production and the style you’re looking for, why are you investing in the position in that way?

2. Why is a successful run game, in Carroll’s mind, predicated on having a certain ‘type’ of running back? There are more ways to create a successful running game than ‘having Marshawn Lynch or Derrick Henry’. It’s blocking, scheming, planning.

This answer from Carroll makes a mockery of their draft philosophy, picks and the basic nature of their offensive scheming — that the running woes are simply put down to ‘no Marshawn these days’.

It also, once again, calls into question Seattle’s use of resources. Perhaps if the Seahawks want to be a tough, physical running side without going back in time and bringing young Marshawn Lynch into 2023, they should consider investing heavily in proven, tough, physical offensive linemen?

Even that, however, wouldn’t explain why they’ve used high picks on Ken Walker and Zach Charbonnet and now the Head Coach is bemoaning the fact neither can ‘set the tone’ like Najee Harris or Derrick Henry. This is the same Harris, for what it’s worth, who has been a big disappointment for two years in Pittsburgh.

How can anyone have confidence that Carroll is going to sort out the problems on this team with answers like this? Their game-planning is clearly woeful, as is their approach to identity and resource spend. The excuses and explanations are feeble. It sounds as shambolic as it looks on the field.

On top of this, a brilliant article by Mookie Alexander at Field Gulls highlights how horrendous statistically the Seahawks are defensively. They are dead last or in the bottom five for virtually every defensive category since the debacle in Baltimore in week nine.

Alexander’s article is a must read for all fans, so check out the whole piece, but here’s a snippet:

There is literally nothing of consequence that this defense has done at a respectable level for two months. It has never, ever been this bad. The defense has sabotaged the season far more than the inconsistencies of the offense, which, I must emphasize, is 11th overall in points per drive (per FTNFantasy). The other 10 teams ahead of them have either clinched playoff berths or are a win away from a playoff spot.

This is untenable for defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt, who in two seasons is statistically the worst DC of the Pete Carroll era. While it’s true that he didn’t get to inherit the Legion of Boom like Kris Richard, he’s also turned a bad defense into something close to rock-bottom. His promotion in itself was a curious choice when you consider the lackluster results along the defensive line when he was a position coach from 2017-2021. Only once in five seasons as DL coach did Seattle have a pressure rate in the top-half of the league. The run defense was at least good enough in 2020 and 2021 but that’s fallen apart over the two seasons he’s been DC.

With all of that said, this is ultimately a Pete Carroll problem.

I believe Carroll is a great defensive mind and that the Legion of Boom years didn’t spawn exclusively from amazing luck. He also produced plenty of NFL caliber players and All-Pro level talent at USC, too. That doesn’t mean you live up to your reputation in perpetuity. Monte Kiffin is the pioneer of the great Tampa 2 scheme, but almost two decades later he coached one of the worst defenses in NFL history.

Carroll has been trying for years to sort the defense out and he can’t. He just can’t do it. They’ve spent a fortune — picks and salary — trying to fix things. It hasn’t worked. It isn’t going to work if they go through a third reset in 2024 and 2025, right up until the end of his contract.

He’s gone through Kris Richard, Ken Norton and Clint Hurtt. All internal appointments, none have worked. Nobody can have any faith that the fourth time will be a charm.

We’re starting to hear things like ‘we weren’t properly prepared’ for the 49ers game on Thanksgiving, we’re seeing the woeful tackling, increasingly it looks like the players are just tuning out and going through the motions. So much for culture and competitive fire when we see performances like Sunday.

For all the talk of consistent success and being competitive — it isn’t true. The Seahawks have settled into being content with second or third place in the NFC West and trying to scrape into the playoffs in a horrible NFC. It’s no standard to aspire to, being slightly less worse than a bad Saints team or the Vikings without their quarterback.

Ask yourself this — based on all the evidence at hand, do you honestly see Carroll being able to usurp Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan? Carroll is not capable of even that, let alone taking this team back to a Super Bowl. He shouldn’t be given the opportunity to launch a third reset, or make yet another coordinator change.

Nostalgia for the past isn’t enough of a counter and neither is ‘careful what you wish for’ rhetoric, which is just cowardly.

Who’d heard of McVay or Kevin Stefanski before they were appointed? You don’t need to hire a big name with years of glory on their résumé. Good coaches are out there, leading units that are performing way above expectation. Look at Bobby Slowik, Ben Johnson and Mike McDonald (and there are others). If you get the next appointment wrong, just move on and have another go.

The Seahawks have been here before. They moved on from Mike Holmgren, a Seattle legend, and it was uncomfortable making that decision yet also necessary. His replacement, Jim Mora, failed. But they had to go through that experience to get to Carroll. The rest is history.

This isn’t a time for being afraid or maintaining the status quo. Jody Allen, Bert Kolde and John Schneider — it’s time. This team needs the next era of Seahawks football.

I talked about these topics in more detail on today’s live stream with Jeff Simmons. Check it out below:

My thoughts on Michael Penix Jr after the Texas win

Michael Penix Jr wowed against Texas in the playoffs

I decided not to write this article immediately after the Washington vs Texas game as planned. I wanted to take a few hours to think about it and for good reason.

There’s a lot to consider when discussing Michael Penix Jr. Online I’m seeing a lot of ‘OMG top-10 pick’ stuff — from big-name media types, not just fans.

I want to try and provide the best, most complete analysis of the player I can provide. There will be nuance, to go with the gushing praise he deserves for a terrific performance last night. All I ask is you read the whole thing before commenting as I’m going to cover several different angles here.

Firstly, let’s reflect on what Penix showed against the Longhorns. It was him at his best. I’ve said it for over a year that Penix has the prettiest spiral and most eye-catching arm talent I’ve seen since Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. They had ‘needs to be seen to be believed’ levels of torque. The RPM’s were off the charts and Penix shares that trait. For that reason alone, he is an exciting player. It doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily reach their level but it does mean he has the clubs in the bag.

There have been a lot of UW games this year where the accuracy has been off and I’ll come to that later. In this game, however, virtually all of the big shots were thrown with perfect accuracy. I’ve watched the game twice — once live and once on repeat. I like to track the air-yards rather than air + YAC to judge accuracy/arm talent. There aren’t many quarterbacks who can throw to a spot with touch and velocity like Penix and I tracked 43, 36 and 55 yards downfield. The throw to Jalen McMillan over the middle, layered between two defenders for a touchdown, was also an excellent pass.

He stretches defenses and there’s always the threat of the big-play to be mindful of. It keeps opponents honest and provides complementary opportunities in the run game. You could see Texas were compromised — knowing they had to risk 1v1 shots otherwise they’d give up other opportunities. Penix feasts when he’s in this kind of form, against a team trying to pick its poison in how to defend such a threatening, dynamic attack.

Onto the first bit of context though. I’ve had two people tweet me to compare what Penix did to C.J. Stroud’s performance against Georgia a year ago. I would avoid that. Stroud was facing one of the best defensive units college football has ever produced. He faced constant pressure and was having to improvise, throw spectacularly on the run, he had to make huge gains with his legs on scrambles (not designed runs). This isn’t me being negative about Penix in any way. I just want to give Stroud the credit he deserves for a solo performance that should’ve confirmed him as the #1 pick last year. We’ve since seen in the NFL that talent translate.

Penix’s display was within structure with a lot less pressure against a far weaker opponent. He did an outstanding job. I just don’t think we’ll ever see a performance quite like Stroud’s against a college football juggernaut.

I’ve seen people question a little bit at times whether Penix is a great athlete (there have often been comments about his lower body muscle-tone for example). It’s nonsense. He isn’t necessarily a fantastically agile, elusive player who is going to be dodging pass rushers like prime Russell Wilson to extend plays. That’s not his game. He is an exceptional athlete though. I’ve been in the Washington facility, been in the weight room. I’ve seen the numbers. Most people don’t know Penix has jumped a 38 inch vertical. That’s remarkable for a quarterback and speaks to the power in his lower body — and it’s no doubt one of the reasons why he generates so much torque and velocity in his throws.

As we saw with some of his runs yesterday, he also has more than adequate straight-line speed. I think his overall physical profile is a big plus. He will be able to make occasional plays with his legs, even if it’ll be more ‘situational’ than by design as we’ll no doubt see with Jayden Daniels (and to a lesser extent Caleb Williams). Even so, while he might not be a great scrambling runner — we saw numerous examples of world class throws on the run in 2023. The throw to the left sideline against USC to the tight end was the throw of the year for me. Off-balance, very little room to reset, placed to the perfect position on the field to make an enormous, improbable play. There were several examples of this special playmaking ability.

When I was watching the game yesterday, I just kept thinking that this is modern football perfectly exemplified by Washington. A big-armed passer, multiple great weapons to throw to meaning you can attack opponents on every level. The run game complements everything by feeding off the threat of the pass. Washington has one outstanding pass rusher who can impact games at a high level. It’s a winning, translatable formula and it’s how many of the pro teams succeed.

I love watching tough, physical, traditional football too — and Washington will face that against Michigan next week. Both styles can work. Yet as I was watching the Huskies, I just kept thinking to myself — I’m ready for the Seahawks to try this. They have the weapons. They possibly don’t have the star pass rusher on the roster but do have some pieces. It would be nice to tap into what the Ravens have done to promote their overall defensive unit without a ton of big names but offensively, this feels like the way forward short of being able to find the next Shanahan or McVay.

Trying to copy the glory days of 2012-14 feels like a fools errand. The talent isn’t there to mimic it. It’s time to try something new, as we’ve been saying. The Huskies are a great example of what could be a formula for a new era.

I would be happy to draft Michael Penix Jr to play within a system like that. He’s shown he can not only produce at a high level but he has also elevated his team way beyond what was realistically expected when Kalen DeBoer took over. They are in the National Championship game, with a realistic shot at winning the whole thing. After last year I wasn’t sure anyone other than Georgia, Ohio State or Alabama would ever win this thing. The Huskies actually could and they couldn’t do it without their QB.

This matters to NFL teams. Elevating the overall performance of your club, enjoying unexpected success, leading from the front, producing in big moments. These are all things Penix has achieved in Washington. It is more impressive for him than it would be for a quarterback doing the same thing at an Alabama or Georgia.

If you draft him I think you would have to set the team up to play with high-octane passing as the identity and mentality, with everything else feeding off it. You’d need to take shots, you’d also need to structure your offensive line to be able to pass protect well.

The overall point I’m making though is there are some players eligible for the draft I wouldn’t have any interest in. Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy for example. I don’t get it. I’ve never got it. Why is he being talked about as a first round pick? I guess some GM’s have talked themselves into drafting E.J. Manuel and Christian Ponder in the top half of round one before, so anything is possible. Yet on an arm talent and production level, I’ve never seen anything to justify the round one chatter.

Penix is different. I would be interested in drafting him. It wouldn’t matter if he failed, either. The idea that you wait until the perfect player comes along and then everything is great is for the birds. The Seahawks need to start thinking long term at the position and that might mean a couple of attempts at this. If they are prepared to actually bite the bullet and take on an offensive personality and identity moving forward, putting together an offense that suits Penix would be a plan that makes sense.

Now, there are other things to mention. I have watched Penix live. Watching him live made me realise how important it is to see quarterbacks live and get that perspective. I was sat about 10 yards away from a Seahawks scout at the Apple Cup who was also no doubt watching closely. I wasn’t that impressed with that performance. I wasn’t that impressed for a decent chunk of this season if I’m being honest.

He started the year throwing 74.9% completions in his first five games. He then went on an eight-game run where that dropped to 60.1%. I’ve seen a lot of people suggest there must be some secret injury. Others have blamed the weather in certain games. I think it’s as simple as he struggled against increased pressure and the ‘big shots’ became too big a focal point. A lot of passes were being armed downfield into areas, rather than being thrown with the precision and accuracy you want to see. I can understand why you might see a 1v1, throw it downfield to Rome Odunze and if he can’t get there nobody will. But there were too many games where there were too many inaccurate throws like that and it’s why the numbers dipped.

During these two same split periods, his average ‘big time throws’ per game stayed exactly the same (2.6 per game). So he was still completing the big, eye-catching plays — there were just an increasing number of bad throws/incompletions to go with it. This is also why his PFF grade in the same periods started well at 89.9 and then tailed off to 71.6.

I want to bring this context to the table because I don’t think many people will discuss it in the aftermath of an outstanding performance. Teams will need to work out, though, whether they have a scheme and the weapons capable of exploiting the big play stuff and whether they can live with games or even stretches where there are a lot of incompletions. I can well imagine there could be 6-7 game periods where things don’t go that well and you might be relying on 2-3 big plays from Penix, on top of possible turnovers not just incompletions, and hoping that you can compensate and elevate around the QB. He might be streaky — but the one thing he’ll always have is the big-play ability, the explosive plays and the potential to score quick, cheap points. I think peak Penix will be a player who wins games with his arm, occasionally generates incredible buzz but will also have people second-guessing him when he has stretches like we saw in 2023. It’s whether those stretches become the norm in the far tougher NFL.

There are other things that you have to discuss when judging Penix. The first one is the obvious one — injury history. The medical testing at the combine will be huge. He had four consecutive season-ending injuries from 2018 to 2021, including tearing his right ACL twice. We can sit hear and discuss the arm talent for weeks and one bad medical test could make it all a moot point. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.

Coaching is a big thing. Clearly DeBoer is a star. He has won 21 straight games for the Huskies. He’s not doing this at Alabama. It’s Washington. If he wins the title next week, the statue should be commissioned immediately. I’m starting to wonder what his destiny is. There’s no guarantee Penix is going to luck-out and land on a NFL team with a brilliant, competent staff. The opposite could be true. It helps that Penix has also worked in this system for years — at Indiana and Washington. It’s also a system that, if we’re being honest, has provided an opportunity to play pitch-and-catch in a number of games over the last two years. It’ll be a whole new world in the NFL with far more complexity and he won’t get years to master everything before getting the chance to start. This doesn’t diminish Penix’s talent in any way but we do need to acknowledge the benefit of great coaching and a system that seems to be extremely effective with different teams/players during DeBoer’s career.

Then there’s the supporting cast. Rome Odunze, when he runs a 4.3 or 4.4 at the combine, is going to go in the top-12 picks. His body control, ball-tracking, hands and consistency is outstanding. Having him alone would be a benefit. To have Odunze and Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk (described to me as the ‘dog’ on the roster) is a situation most QB’s don’t have. Then you throw in a player like Jack Westover who seems to have an unfortunate number of inaccurate throws go his way, only to make an improbable acrobatic catch virtually every time.

To go with the great weapons, the Washington O-line just won the Joe Moore Award for the best blocking unit in college. This is the award Michigan won the last two years. They have a left tackle who will be a top-20 pick as a possible guard convert. They have a right tackle who, at worst, will be a day two pick this year. Everyone associated with the Huskies seems to love the center. Washington are giving up only 0.8 sacks per game this season, a record only topped by Oregon (0.4) and Liberty (0.6). In comparison, South Carolina and Alabama had the joint eighth worst lines for sacks per game (3.7). So it shows how Penix has benefited from great play up front.

Again, the chances are he’s not going to go to a team in the NFL with great receivers and a great blocking line. I’m confident Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye will be able to combat that early in their pro-careers with their mix of elusiveness and in the case of Maye, size. They are more improvisational players. Penix is going to need more of a set table. His best bet is to go to a team that has already been building a roster, rather than a team that is starting over. While Seattle’s O-line needs further improvements, they are a better option for Penix (provided they shift identity somewhat) than say a Washington, New England or New York Giants.

I think NFL O-lines in particular could be an issue. As a noted in a recent article:

His technique requires him to put his body into throws and this won’t be conducive with the quicker game at the next level where he’ll face constant pressure and need to deliver passes on time. He struggled in two games where he faced consistent pressure and 50% of his pressures this season (39/78) came in three consecutive games (Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford).

I think it is a question whether he can do a quick drop, set and fire consistently, working to the shorter/intermediate levels and throwing with layered precision. That hasn’t been a big feature in college for him. The deep shots will always will be there, as will the screens and the throws to the flat. But if the pressure is coming fast and frequently, can he sit tight and deliver hot between defenders? This is a question we have to ask about a lot of players to be fair. It’s easier, however, when you see examples on tape. We saw it a lot with Spencer Rattler at South Carolina because he was being hammered every week and still delivered those types of throws. With Penix, we haven’t see it as much because the situation is so different.

Now — last night was critical and did make me think he can overcome and develop this challenge. He faced 15 total pressures, the second most he’s faced this season (there were 18 pressures against Utah). His production was outstanding despite this and he finished with a 93.5 PFF grade — his highest of the season.

Let’s look at his top five graded games this season and compare the pressures:

Boise State (84.4) — 6 pressures
Tulsa (90.1) — 3 pressures
Michigan State (91.8) — 11 pressures
California (93.4) — 7 pressures
Texas (93.5) — 15 pressures

As you can see, last night was a far more challenging contest with the high grade hard-earned compared to some of the easier contests at the start of the season. Penix also had six ‘big time throws’ yesterday, the most he’s had in a game this season. This is all really good evidence for the NFL and was likely far more of a boost to his stock than any optics of the pretty throws we already knew he could deliver.

He’ll face another stern test next week. Michigan created 11 pressures against Alabama QB Jalen Miroe and he struggled badly in the passing game. It’s a perfect next test for Penix and Washington.

The final thing I will mention is the fact Penix is left handed. It was mentioned to me recently that a lot of teams don’t like this because the whole offense has to change and adapt. It’s not just a case of the right tackle effectively protecting the blind-side. Receivers have to adjust in a big way too, as do some route-concepts. That will be a thing to consider, as I wasn’t aware how impactful it can be.

Even so, Tua Tagovailoa — who didn’t have anywhere near Penix’s arm strength and entered the league with a serious hip injury — was taken fifth overall despite all of this and being a lefty. I think Tua is actually a good possible comp for Penix. He’s like Tua with a cannon arm. He doesn’t have the college hype that Tua had — plus he’s older. We need to remember that Tua was basically the first ‘hyped’ QB Alabama had in a long time and there was a ‘tank for Tua’ movement at one stage. Penix is unlikely to go as high as Tua, I’d suggest, for the reasons listed above. But they have similar pro’s, con’s, supporting casts — and Penix has a better arm. So I guess you never know.

Tua looked mediocre within a mediocre Miami offense. With a superior offensive mind running the Dolphins and with the addition of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, he looks far better. Penix will likely need these same things, I’d suggest. If he gets them, I’d guess he can be very productive.

Initially I graded Penix in round three on my horizontal board, while believing he would go in round two. I think a lot of teams will have something similar when they consider the full picture as discussed in this lengthy piece. A performance like last night can change things. Perhaps not enough to jump two rounds on a board but possibly to earn round two consideration with a chance to get into round one with sound medicals.

This profile is well over 3000 words now. I hope it is useful. Well done if you read it all. I think it’s the nuance that is needed after a big performance that is generating a lot of hype. My prediction remains that Penix will be taken in the top-50. I think the talk of second overall etc is a bit rich. I would consider drafting him for the Seahawks and believe he will be there for them if they want him — but I would want that to coincide with changes in coaching and philosophy.

Some other quick notes…

— I think defeat for Texas means Quinn Ewers will remain in college. However, he’s still hedging his bets so we’ll see. Texas struggled with their play-calling throughout and never found any rhythm. I still think at the end we saw the natural talent Ewers possesses. The throw from his own 38, delivered with perfect touch, dropped to the opponents 30 for a 42-yard throw, hitting the receiver in stride for added YAC, was a thing of beauty. He probably does need another year of seasoning but he has amazing natural talent as a passer with a super-quick release. Cam Ward surprisingly snubbed NIL deals to turn pro this week so who knows? I think either decision by Ewers would be understandable.

— As mentioned earlier, J.J. McCarthy doesn’t interest me. I gave him a mid-round grade but I wouldn’t draft him. He has limited arm talent and upside and I’d look in other places for a new QB. He is not exciting.

— Bralen Trice is very underrated nationally and in draft media. He was a terror against Texas. A reminder — he runs a 4.2 short shuttle at about 270lbs.

Note — Today’s stream with Jeff Simmons has been postponed and will now take place tomorrow at 2pm PT.

If you enjoy the blog and want to support the site via Patreon — (click here)

It’s time for a new era of Seahawks football

It’s been a great run, Pete, but it’s time

There are a lot of concerning things about the current Seahawks.

You could start with the hopeless run defense. Despite being an off-season focal point, mentioned time and time again, it’s as bad this year as it’s ever been. 202 more yards conceded against the Steelers, when every man and his dog knew they’d try to run the ball to take the pressure off Mason Rudolph.

No resistance. No pushback. Just pure domination.

You could mention the tackling. Soft, inept, hopeless. The Steelers had 132 rushing yards after contact, their second-most in a game since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2009. It was embarrassing to watch on Sunday. Whenever the Seahawks play any opponent with even a modicum of toughness, they seem to roll over.

You could note that once again the Seahawks are left relying on other teams to make the playoffs. Last year it was the Lions upsetting Green Bay allowing them to sneak in. Now, they’re left hoping something similar happens with the Packers losing to the Bears and that they can win in Arizona. Is this what we constitute as success now? Possible back-door entries into the post-season, not winning the NFC West, having very little chance of making any noise in the playoffs? All while the 49ers and Rams consistently achieve more?

Is this the new standard in Seattle? It’s OK to be the second or third best team in the division year after year just as long you’re better than a bad Saints team and a Vikings side without its QB, in order to grab the seventh seed? Is this really enough for fans and media alike to stave off difficult conversations about the direction of the franchise?

You could mention the massive resource spend on the roster. The expertly executed Russell Wilson trade has allowed the Seahawks to revamp their team with a ton of fresh blood. They’ve then gone way beyond that — spending so much on contracts that they’re now projected to have -$9m in effective cap space next year. They’ve already used their second round pick in the highly aggressive Leonard Williams trade. They’re paying big salaries to experienced veterans. This is an expensive group and they’ve been lending from the 2024 credit card.

Despite all of this spending — picks and money — they’re getting the absolute bare minimum for their investment. An offense loaded with skill players only seems to play in fits and starts. The defense is just awful. They’re clinging onto a playoff possibility by their finger-tips. The Williams trade told everyone in the world that they thought they were contenders and were going for it. We should hold them to that standard now that the season is on the brink of ending in mediocrity.

Yep, you could mention any of these things and they’d all be legit points in an argument for change. Nothing is more concerning, though, than the words of Pete Carroll himself discussing the performance against the Steelers:

“(The) mindset needs to be different than it was”

There you go. In a must-win game with control of a playoff position at stake, the Seahawks ‘didn’t have the right mindset’.

They allowed an opponent, in a similar situation, to come in and bully you in your own stadium. The Seahawks, you can take from that comment, didn’t take this occasion seriously enough.

Pete Carroll has never been celebrated for his tactical brilliance. In fourteen seasons I can’t remember many times where, after a game, we basked in the glow of how he out-witted another coach.

What Carroll was able to deliver was the right competitive mentality. You never had to worry about that. He might’ve had some teams with glaring weaknesses over the years but there was never a passive attitude towards a big game.

If Carroll can no longer resonate with his players so that they can play with the necessary attitude and intensity in a vital game like this, it’s over.

Increasingly this team looks like one that gets by on talent alone. The Seahawks don’t have a roster full of blue-chippers but they have more than enough ‘good’ players to not be awful. That is why they are able to get to 8-8. Yet elevating beyond that — as the Ravens have done despite a similar lack of Niner-level blue-chippers — is going to require a whole lot of ‘the right mindset’ and/or some tactical brilliance.

The Seahawks clearly aren’t getting either. So what is the answer?


It is time for a complete breath of fresh air within the franchise. New voices, new ideas, new identity, new approach.

That to me would be an offensive identity. We all watch the games. Seattle’s best characteristic is the offensive weapons they have. Putting someone in charge who can maximise these weapons is critical. Then go for a complementary defense where you fix the tackling, shift resource from the back-end to the D-line and go from there.

If you have to have a defensive-minded Head Coach, let’s at least have one who has shown he can do more with less, not the reverse as we’re seeing in Seattle. Baltimore DC Mike McDonald doesn’t have a Nick Bosa or Myles Garrett pass-rusher to rely on. He’s rejuvenated Jadeveon Clowney on the cheap and made Justin Madubuike a force. He’s converting safeties to fill in at corner. He’s created the #2 ranked defense per DVOA and they were eighth last year. McDonald took over a unit that ranked 28th in 2021. Look at that rapid and dramatic change. That’s what Seattle needs now — not more of the same as we saw against Pittsburgh. Not more massive investment, being aggressive, only for the same disappointing results.

It’s time for Jody Allen and Bert Kolde to get their heads together and make the kind of decision that isn’t comfortable, isn’t desired but is absolutely necessary. They need a new direction for this franchise.

Or, the Head Coach needs to make the decision for them.

Carroll has had two resets to get this right. He’s appointed two different defensive and offensive coordinators too. He can’t turn this around. He can’t fix persistent problems or drive the Seahawks forward. He hasn’t been able to deliver a serious contender since the LOB collapsed years ago and the prime years of Russell Wilson’s career covered for a lot of issues after that.

The Seahawks are not close, not knocking on the door. They are a middling team, with players who are either delivering par performances or they’re under-performing.

People qualify it all by pointing out that the Seahawks are never hopeless, like it’s enough to merely exist in the NFL and avoid being a disaster. This is no position to take. As I keep saying, you either need to be a contender or be able to have faith that you’re on the road to becoming one. Who can watch that on Sunday and think the Seahawks are on the right track? Who could possibly think that a Championship run is forthcoming within the next two years?

The franchise doesn’t exist for Carroll to coach for as long as he wishes. They exist to compete for Championships. Carroll will not get this team back to the Super Bowl before his contract ends after 2025. Therefore, there’s no reason to wait. Appoint someone instead who can start to create that vision now, rather than just playing for time because it’s what Carroll wants and it’s the easy way out.

Any serious Seahawks fan doesn’t enjoy writing or reading those words. We should all embrace and cherish a great era of Seahawks football under Carroll. Nothing lasts forever though. Better to bow out now — still a few years later than he should’ve done — and retain the status of legend, rather than cling on to the bitter end and have an increasing number of people calling for you to go.

The Seahawks are flat as a franchise. It was chastening hearing how noisy the Steelers fans were in Lumen Field on the broadcast. Bullied in your own home by a tougher team with their fans taking over the stadium. I’m told it was a similar story for the Eagles game. I was at the 49ers game and couldn’t believe how many red jerseys there were.

The mystique and the magic has gone. So has the intensity, the toughness, the message being sent by the coach. These players as a collective group aren’t delivering for Carroll. Not on that evidence. Not with him questioning whether they had the right mindset. Not like the Steelers were playing for Tomlin, anyway, who got that performance with his QB3 under center.

You can look at Pittsburgh and wonder, what if they actually acquire a top QB? They could be a really good side. There’s at least that hope. With the Seahawks, it goes way beyond replacing Geno Smith.

It appears to me the message has gone stale, or a large number of players are not being receptive to the coach to the level required. Carroll shouldn’t be afforded two new coordinators and another reset of the roster. The fact after the game he was even talking about ‘getting Jamal Adams back next year’ says it all.

It’s time. It’s just time. Thanks for the memories, Pete — but we can’t watch the same baffling brand of football next year, with the same issues, with the same soundbites and the same end result.

14 years has been a great run. Now we need to see someone else get their shot to lead this Seahawks team in a fresh direction, regardless of what happens next week and whether they become a lousy seventh seed qualifier in the playoffs or not.

If you missed our post-game live stream, check it out here:

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Curtis Allen’s week seventeen watch-notes (vs Steelers)

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen…

The Seahawks have been playing in playoff-caliber games since Week Eleven. In that stretch they’ve gone 2-4, with two close losses and two not-close losses.

However, the wins have obviously come in the last two games and the team is building momentum to finish out another season, hopefully on a strong note.

Coming to town are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have also sandwiched some wins around some very frustrating losses and are fighting for their playoff lives as a result.

The Steelers present a challenge not unlike last week’s opponent, the Tennessee Titans. They are physical, well-coached and they run the ball liberally. A win for Seattle will not come easily. However, Pete Carroll has talked through a very tough stretch of games the last few weeks, insisting the Seahawks are ‘battle-tested’ for this.

What will make that assertion a correct one?

Stop the Run and Make the Steeler Offense One-Dimensional

Listen, if I were writing a Steelers Watch Points post, point #1 would be to attack the Seahawks in the running game. Pittsburgh still has an unsure situation at quarterback and the Seahawks are vulnerable there. How vulnerable?

It is downright ugly. In the last five games, the Seahawks have given up an average of 164 yards on the ground, a robust 5.14 yards per rush, nine rushing touchdowns and a whopping 50 first downs. What’s more, the defense has not once stripped the ball on a running play in that stretch.

The Steelers are a league-average team on the ground, in terms of yards per attempt and yards gained per game. However, there is one stat that they are highly proficient in, one that spells trouble for the Seahawks: Broken Tackles.

Najee Harris (24 Broken Tackles) and Jaylen Warren (20) are two of the league’s best in the running game, ranking #2 and #4 in the NFL. They also have another 12 Broken Tackles between them in the passing game.

This is a particular vulnerability for the Seahawks, as they are once again one of the NFL’s worst tackling teams, with 107 missed tackles through 15 games. The trend is not being corrected – in that same recent five-game stretch they have actually gotten worse, with 42 missed tackles.

Typically, Harris is called in more for runs than Warren is but they both are comfortable attacking the interior of the defense and focusing on the outside edges as well. The defense will need a disciplined, coordinated effort to contain the run. Devin Bush will see plenty of snaps with Jordyn Brooks ruled out for the game. A big game against his old mates would be just what the doctor ordered.

The Steelers running backs bring toughness on every play. The Seahawks defense will need to match it in order to control this one.

Mason Rudolph had a great game last week but there are reasonable questions being asked of whether he can replicate that performance in back-to-back weeks. The most sensible game plan would be to lean heavily on the run game, build in some safe throws and occasionally take a shot to George Pickens or Diontae Johnson.

The Seahawks need to disrupt that plan and put the Steelers into tough situations on third down, where they are very poor this year, standing at #25 in the NFL. As a team, their quarterbacks have a 53.9% completion rate on third downs. If they have longer third downs where they cannot just dump the ball off to Warren or Harris to gain the three yards they need, the Seahawks will have a better chance for success.

A good day defending the run would be a huge breath of fresh air for this team. If they want to make any noise in the playoffs, they must be better. It starts with this game.

Avoid Mistakes

Last week the Steelers had an impressive win over the Bengals to sweep their season series. Mason Rudolph had a blast throwing to George Pickins and T.J. Watt was causing trouble. They deserved the win.

That said, Jake Browning’s three interceptions helped them along greatly. They scored 17 points – making each interception pay dividends – and one of the Steeler interceptions was in their own end zone, so they likely took at least three points off the Bengals’ board with the turnover.

In a game they won by 23 points, that was the main difference.

What manner of interceptions were they? Browning made some terrible decisions, with throws that demonstrated why he has been a backup for so long.

Geno Smith had a good game last week against Tennessee, with no real poor throws or other big mistakes. He will need to keep that going in order to win this game.

The Steelers are one of the league’s best in Turnover Differential, at +10. The Seahawks are in the middle of the pack at +3, a stark difference.

Also, penalties could well determine the outcome of the game. Once again, the Seahawks are one of the league’s worst, ranking tied for #30 with 107 flags so far this year. The Steelers? Tied for #8 with only 79. The Seahawks have seemed to struggled to adjust to the officiating updates the NFL made this year. They need to have as clean a game as possible in order to not sidetrack their efforts.

Turnovers and penalties. The Steelers are good, the Seahawks are not. Flipping that – or even just holding them to a draw – in those two categories may mean a playoff berth for the Seahawks.

Attack the Middle of the Field in the Passing Game

The Steelers come into Seattle in an absolutely dreadful position with their safeties.

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Trenton Thompson have been ruled out with injuries for the third week in a row. Keanu Neal is on IR. Damontae Kazee was suspended for the rest of the season two weeks ago.

The opposition has noticed. Even though Jake Browning threw three interceptions last week, he still ended the game with 335 yards passing, including this beauty:

On that play, Linebacker Mykal Walker is playing the wrong coverage and realizes it too late. Eric Rowe cannot find the proper angle to match Higgins’ speed and the play is basically over 70 yards away from the end zone.

Do the Seahawks have that club in their bag? They do:

Shane Waldron and Geno Smith need to regularly and mercilessly attack this zone of the field when they want to pass the ball. It is too juicy a target and the Seahawks have a multiplicity of great options to employ, from the three great wide receivers to tall targets in seam routes like Colby Parkinson and Jake Bobo (remember him?).

Jake Browning’s three interceptions did not come from smart, athletic plays by the defenders. They were poor.

In contrast, one of Geno Smith’s best weapons is his downfield accuracy. If they can regularly attack this area with quick slants that keep the pass rush at bay and gain chunks of yards – all the while putting pressure on the Steelers offense to keep up – it could make the day a very profitable one for the team.

They will still need to devote a hearty portion of the offensive plan to the run game (more on that below) but when they do want to pass between the numbers, in both the short and deep passing game, is precisely where they need to attack.

Do Not Let T.J. Watt Flip the Field

Watt is one of the few defenders that can regularly change the game in a hurry.

He has played the Seahawks twice in his career. In those two games, he has produced three passes defensed, three sacks, 13 tackles with four for a loss, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles — including this one to win the game in Overtime in 2021:

Some of Browning’s poor throws last week were under duress from Watt (and Alex Highsmith).

So, on the protection side, the Seahawks will need Abe Lucas to do all he can to keep Watt under control in this game. A quiet game for Watt would go a very long way to making this offense work.

However, Geno Smith will also have to do his part by reading the pressure, checking to the correct plays, and either delivering the ball quickly to his receivers or using his feet to create time for them to uncover.

Interestingly, stats do not necessarily always make the game. Against the Colts two weeks ago, Watt recorded two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits in a beastly effort on the stat sheet. Yet the Colts won the game by 17 points. How? Three turnovers by Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers offense surely helped. But a big part of the story is the Colts took Watt out of the game. All of his stats were collected in the first quarter and early in the second and he was quiet for the rest of the day.

How did they do it? They must have had a beast at Right Tackle tangling with Watt all day long, right?

No. They lined up fourth-round rookie Blake Freeland over Watt at Right Tackle, he of the 45.2 PFF grade this season.

So that’s not it. What wizardry did Shane Steichen imagine up to handle Watt? The Colts’ website tells us:

“The offensive line did a heck of a job protecting for him. He got the ball out of his hands quick,” head coach Shane Steichen said. “Just clean, precise decision making, knowing where to go with the football and then making the plays that he did. That big third down to (Michael) Pittman Jr. getting out of the pocket, that was a heck of an individual effort by him making that play – kind of directing Pitt to go deep there to hit that chunk play. Managing the game, the operation, obviously taking care of the football was huge going into that game. We didn’t want T.J. Watt obviously to wreck that game.”

Over the Colts’ final seven possessions, Watt was credited with no sacks, no quarterback hits and a single quarterback pressure; his lone tackle in 16 run defense snaps came in the first quarter.

On a quarter of those run plays, Freeland didn’t engage as a run blocker and simply routed Watt upfield – giving the rookie a breather but also taking Watt completely out of a play. When the Colts did block Watt on run plays, they got creative: Left guard Quenton Nelson pulled and stonewalled him; tight end Kylen Granson sprinted across the formation for a cut block; perhaps most impressively, tight end Drew Ogletree locked up Watt one-on-one to help spring Tyler Goodson’s 31-yard rush in the third quarter.

And then Steichen calling 13 consecutive run plays in the second half sapped the energy out of not only Watt but the Steelers’ defense.

“Certainly that progression in the game, running it over and over and over, wears them down,” center Ryan Kelly said. “They don’t want to keep getting up off the ground and do the same thing over again knowing it’s going to happen. It’s a real special feeling.”

Tight end Mo Alie-Cox said the Colts emphasized wearing Watt down and making things as difficult as possible on the three-time first-team AP All-Pro. On passing plays, Watt was frequently chipped by a tight end – like when Ogletree chipped him on Alie Cox’s third quarter touchdown, with Minshew releasing his throw before Freeland could even get his hands on Watt.

So even while Watt got on the board with those two early sacks, the Colts made sure he didn’t wreck the game in bigger situations as the evening progressed.

“He had a sack early,” Alie-Cox said, “but over the course of the game we did a good job taking him out of it.”

There you have it. Brilliant coaching with a plan to focus on the opposition’s best player and take him out of the game.

To summarize:

1. Geno Smith will need to get the ball out quickly and create with his feet

2. The Seahawks will need to rely on the run game to wear him down and take him out of Pass Rush Mode

3. Using Tight Ends to chip and players like Zach Charbonnet to double-team on passing downs will be critical

Quick draft notes for a Friday night

I wanted to take some time before the weekend just offer some draft thoughts and status check a few things. So here we go…

— I’ve taken a few names off my horizontal board who opted not to declare for the draft and return to college. This includes linebackers Smael Mondon and Barrett Carter at Georgia and Clemson respectively, receivers Julian Fleming and Josh Kelly (both heading for the portal) and cornerback Trikwese Bridges (also in the portal). There are still a number of players yet to make their intentions clear for the draft.

— I didn’t include Carson Beck on my initial board and the Georgia QB has now confirmed he isn’t turning pro. Tyler Van Dyke is going to Wisconsin, Will Rogers to Washington, Riley Leonard to Notre Dame, Will Howard to USC and Grayson McCall to NC State. Some of these are yet to be officially confirmed, though, so things can change. Cam Ward, KJ Jefferson and DJ Uiagalelei are yet to indicate where they are heading in the portal, with Ward said to be commanding a lot of interest.

— The buzz around Jayden Daniels is incredible and increasingly it seems like he might be the second quarterback drafted in 2024. His case will be aided if Lamar Jackson wins the MVP and/or Baltimore wins the Super Bowl. Teams will recognise the similarities between the two players. I still think it’s a lock that Caleb Williams will be taken by the Bears with the top pick but Daniels as QB2 and Drake Maye as QB3 feels extremely plausible.

— There are so many teams chasing quarterbacks and supply isn’t going to match demand. The key name I’m going to continue to keep an eye on is Quinn Ewers. The latest talk is he’s 80% committed to returning to Texas. However, if he wins the National Championship and plays well in the process there’s little reason to return. His decision will likely hinge on the outcome of the playoffs.

— On the Seahawks, it’s increasingly hard to imagine Geno Smith isn’t on the roster next year. They aren’t picking high enough to guarantee anything in terms of the draft. The veteran alternatives are not attractive and players like Kirk Cousins will cost a fortune (I suspect he’ll eventually be extended by Minnesota, keeping him off the market). The question really is how much can they shave off Smith’s cap hit? They can’t go into next year with Smith on three times what he’s on now. He’s still a bridge and their cap situation is bad enough that they need to find considerable savings. Jamal Adams will be gone, that’ll create some relief. They’ll need a lot more than the $16.5m that will provide (plus other inevitable cuts such as the $5m they’ll get for parting with Bryan Mone). They absolutely should still plan to draft a quarterback as a potential heir apparent. I wouldn’t be opposed to trading up, especially for someone like Daniels — exactly the kind of QB who causes San Francisco problems. Having a big-time playmaker at QB is one way to combat playing a team who simply has far more blue-chip players than you do.

— I’m delighted that the media, at least, continues to sleep on Spencer Rattler. I keep reading so much nonsense about him from people who clearly haven’t fully studied his tape since leaving Oklahoma. For me he remains an excellent option for the Seahawks if they can’t trade up for a QB. Rattler’s a talent I’d be prepared to consider in round one — so if he’s destined to go later than that, fantastic. We see quarterbacks last longer than they should all the time. I mentioned a few days ago — you’ve got to look for special qualities and take shots to find ‘the guy’. I think Rattler’s as talented as any quarterback eligible for 2024, with arm talent to die for. He’s shown maturation at South Carolina, he’s proven he can play within structure. There’s so much to like and without a top-five pick this year, you have to look at other options if trading up isn’t a solution.

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Winning shouldn’t stop uncomfortable Seahawks conversations

There are still issues in Seattle that can’t be ignored

Perceptions change quickly after a couple of wins and we’re seeing that with the Seahawks. In the last 48 hours I’ve seen more than one person suggesting it’s plausible for the Seahawks to go on a run in the post-season. Meaning, they achieve more than just making up the numbers in the playoffs.

I view this two ways. Firstly, sure. It’s possible. The NFC isn’t very good. The 49ers are still the class of the conference even if they took a shot to the jaw yesterday against the Ravens. San Francisco’s roster is well beyond anyone else’s in the NFC, they are well coached and regardless of the Baltimore game, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the NFC preventing them from facing the Ravens again in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles are massively flawed and don’t look very good at all. They appear quite similar to the Seahawks during their recent four-game losing streak. They have offensive power but the defense stinks, especially in the secondary. They’ve lost their way and their coordinators appear overmatched.

The Lions are very beatable and the Seahawks seem to have their number. Dallas have all the characteristics of a paper tiger and they’re exactly the kind of opponent a proper team loves to meet in a NFC Championship or divisional round game. You can get after them, rough them up and they rely on a handful of very good players to win.

The NFC South poses no serious threat to anyone. Then there’s the Rams — perhaps the one team capable of upsetting the 49ers. Even then, McVay’s record against Shanahan isn’t great (even if they won the most important matchup between the teams two seasons ago to reach the Super Bowl).

You can run through every possible playoff contest with the exception of the 49ers and make a case for the Seahawks winning a one-off game against anyone. Thus, a ‘run’ isn’t preposterous.

The context here, though, is twofold.

Firstly, none of these teams are going to be particularly concerned about playing the Seahawks either. It’s still more likely than not the Seahawks, either as the #6 or #7 seed, lose their first game against the Eagles, Lions or Cowboys and it’s season over.

After all, here are the three scores the Seahawks ‘managed’ against the Ravens and 49ers this season: 37-3, 31-13 and 28-16. That’s indicative of how far off they are from the league’s best. All three of those scorelines could’ve been worse, too.

Secondly, and most importantly, the fact that the NFC is extremely poor and littered with flawed teams shouldn’t validate or excuse the issues we’ve been discussing. Neither should it prevent us from having serious conversations about the future.

I’m going to keep making this point. You are either on the right path to contention or you’re not. I don’t look at this Seahawks team and feel like the 2023 season, led by Pete Carroll and these coordinators, is the latest step of a journey to Super Bowl contention. I think they are what their record this season and last shows. They are a 9-8, 8-9, 10-7, 7-10 type team. Each year they’ll have an opportunity to be in that bracket. They’ll be in the playoff discussion, mostly because of the ridiculous introduction of a seventh seed. Yet this is often a deceptive and frustrating place to exist. You’re never good enough to feel truly energised or hopeful but not bad enough to consider serious change. Often anyone brave enough to bring this up is accused of being ‘spoilt’ because, well, the Panthers are really bad or something.

A possible playoff run is more to do with a weak NFC than any strength of the Seahawks. I’m concerned that this is going to be a convenient distraction, forcing some pressing issues off the agenda.

Case in point — you can tolerate being flawed when the issues are of a certain nature. If Seattle’s main problem was an over-reliance on youth with accompanying growing pains, that’d be palatable. If your quarterback is a bit hit-and-miss when we can all see he is a bridge and not a long term solution, that’s easy to stomach provided they address the position in the near future.

There are issues in Seattle though that are far more unacceptable than this and they need to be discussed.

For example, the Seahawks spent the entire off-season discussing how unacceptable their run defense was last year. It was a major point of focus. Yet in the last five outings, they’ve given up at least 135 rushing yards per game. They’re ranked 27th in the NFL for rushing yards-per-game (129.6) and 27th for total yards (1944).

This isn’t the first time this staff led by this coach have been upfront about an issue that needs to be fixed and yet they’ve failed to do anything about it. It feels like the run from 2019-2021 where the pass rush was eternally talked about, never sufficiently addressed and it cost the team opportunities to be a serious threat.

Then there’s the overall defensive performance. The Seahawks are now ranked 24th per DVOA. They’ve regressed from 20th (2021), to 22nd (2022) to 24th in a three-year run. That’s despite the massive investment they’ve made in the unit, with top-five picks, free agent splurges, obscene contract extensions and expensive rental trades. They’ve pushed all their chips into the middle of the table for the defense and they’re getting worse.

Identity. Initially it was a staple of what enabled Carroll’s Seahawks to succeed. Now they say they want to be a running team but can’t run the ball. Combine that with the badly performing defense and the ‘complete circle’ Carroll has often cited as his main aim is more like three separate straight lines, all pointing in different directions.

They have the 29th most rushing yards this season and the 29th most rushing attempts, despite spending two second round picks on running backs. How has this happened? It is malpractice, frankly, to invest that much in the running back position and then run the ball the fourth fewest times among all teams.

This would all be tolerable if it was in order to promote a consistent, dynamic passing attack where D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are routinely fed the ball, exposing weekly matchup weaknesses in opponents. Alas, no. Lockett is 25th and Metcalf 27th for targets this season. Against the Eagles it took them until the final drive to realise Metcalf versus the struggling, ageing James Bradberry was a potential advantage. Until that final drive, Metcalf had one catch for eight yards. This isn’t how you use a receiver earning $24m a year.

It’s not unfair to suggest they’ve lost all sense of what they want to be on offense and/or don’t know how to make the most of their most dynamic (and expensive) weapons. Heck, Carroll even admitted on the radio a few weeks ago they were struggling to work out the best way to max-out certain players on offense because they had so many options. Meanwhile, the defense just isn’t very good despite unrivalled investment.

Do we forget all this now because the Seahawks managed to pull a couple of last-gasp wins out of the bag? Will further wins against two other average/bad teams further shift the narrative away from relevant concerns and onto a ‘run it back’ campaign?

There’s one other thing I want to mention. Watching the Ravens beat the 49ers yesterday, I was struck by how Baltimore asked questions defensively of San Francisco.

Admittedly they have a good defense. This isn’t Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis though. In fact I think they have a similar overall talent level to Seattle in terms of personnel. They’re just utilised better. They get every sinew out of someone like Jadeveon Clowney. They’ve turned Justin Madubuike into a force. Their big trade — a second rounder for Roquan Smith — looks like great value (and isn’t just a rental or a major overpay in terms of compensation). They’re built sensibly, they have a plan and they play fast and physical.

They’re a million miles away from the Seahawks and yet, I’d put that down to the way they are structured. It isn’t because they lucked out in the draft with Nick Bosa or Myles Garrett. It feels like a well-crafted, schemed and motivated group.

When they came up against Kyle Shanahan’s powerhouse offense — they had answers. They challenged the Niners.

When the Seahawks play the 49ers, they trot out the same old stuff, get beat in the same old way and then come back for more in the rematch. All five of San Francisco’s wins against Seattle in the last two seasons have felt the same, just with varying degrees of ‘suck’.

It’s no different against McVay. Over and over again, the Rams exploit the same weaknesses in the defense. Whether it’s familiarity, an inability to adapt or a combination of both — Shanahan and McVay have Carroll’s number. The results prove that. After 14 years, why is anything going to change in 2024 or 2025? It didn’t change this year.

I appreciate the Ravens aren’t a common opponent for San Francisco and thus, it might’ve been easier to plan some surprises. Yet it was fascinating to see Mike McDonald challenge the Niners. Throw a few punches. Force turnovers. Make life uncomfortable. Make the 49ers, it has to be said, want to go home and open presents from Santa Clause instead of continuing the Santa Clara beatdown on Christmas day.

If we’re going to have a defensive-minded Head Coach and snub the modern trend of offensive playcallers cooking up creative ways to feature star playmakers and score points, I want a defensive-focussed team that will do what Baltimore did yesterday. Their defensive DVOA ranking is #2. Seattle’s is #24. There’s the stark difference — and Seattle’s defense cost so much more.

If you’re going to lean defensively — tap into the Ravens mentality. The Ravens way, if you will. They’re doing what you’ve always wanted to do in a way you can only dream of currently. The Seahawks might want to be like this but they’re nowhere near — as their own beating in Baltimore showed.

Offensive coach, defensive coach. Just give me something different. Have a side of the ball you can hang your hat on. Be really good at something. Go into those Rams and Niners games next year with an air of intrigue and mystery, rather than resignation that the same old zones will be beaten by the same old plays, with the same old players producing the same old results.

If you’re going to go 1-3 or 0-4 against the two other good teams in your division, short of one of the teams suffering catastrophic injuries (as the Rams did last year) — forget about ever being taken seriously as a contender.

All of these things remain really important to highlight and discuss. They can’t be pushed to one side because the Seahawks ‘just’ beat a Tennessee team missing a bunch of starters with nothing to play for. The end result might’ve been OK in the end but that Titans game summed everything up. It took far too long for the offense to click against a depleted opponent missing its entire secondary and their best defensive lineman. Defensively, they were bullied in the running game despite that likely being the whole focus during the week (it wasn’t going to be Ryan Tannehill’s deep-ball, was it?).

A win against a collapsing Eagles and potential further wins against a Steelers team that is woeful offensively (although admittedly excellent on defense) and the 3-12 Cardinals shouldn’t mean all of these important issues are forgotten.

It might be inconvenient for some to discuss these things and I’m sure I’ll face the usual accusations of being spoilt, negative, suffering mental health issues or hating the Seahawks (pick your preferred insult). Yet at the moment, any talk of a ‘playoff run’ can only be placed alongside a serious conversation about the matters raised above. We can’t avoid this.

There are five other quick things I want to raise today…

— John Harbaugh was a special teams coach back in the day. It means during his long tenure as Ravens Head Coach, he has entrusted and empowered his offensive and defensive coordinators. That was talked about again yesterday during and after the 49ers demolition. I think Carroll can still succeed in Seattle but only if he was prepared to follow this path. ‘Carroll ball’ couldn’t be further from what we’re seeing at the moment. Why not just embrace a different way of doing things if he intends to carry on coaching in 2024? Go and get the best two coordinators money can buy and let them run the show tactically. Be the overseer. Appointing ‘his guys’ to execute ‘his vision’ hasn’t worked for years.

— I think the world of Carroll, as I’m sure the vast majority of Seahawks fans do. I don’t take any pleasure in discussing his future or hoping for change. I just think coaches generally have a shelf-life and Carroll has reached his in Seattle. Fourteen years is a very long time. I’ve had two kids in that period. I think the same about Bill Belichick in New England and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh. I actually think it’d be great for everyone to know this playoff chase was to be a ‘last dance’ of sorts for Carroll, bringing everyone together to see the legendary coach off into the sunset, like the ending of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Instead I fear he’s already gone on too long and will continue to go on, making more fans long for change and tarnishing the great memories he deserves to be remembered for. Those of us in England know what that’s like, having seen it happen to Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. It’d be crushing to see Carroll become an increasingly divisive topic in the future, simply because he continued until the bitter end. Why not go out with all the good will on offer and allow the franchise to begin a necessary new era, rather than working to a strict 2025 timeline when Carroll’s career presumably will come to an end?

— I’m fascinated by the fallout of the Chiefs loss to the Raiders because talk of accountability has been discussed. Patrick Mahomes mentioned recently he felt like they lost some of that when Eric Bieniemy, known as a bit of a headbanger, departed for Washington. Hearing the Chiefs talk so openly about this was a real ‘head in the hands’ moment when I remembered that Carroll, when asked who holds him accountable two years ago, answered ‘Nate Carroll (his son) and Tater (Carl Smith, long-time Carroll assistant)’. That answer, now more than ever, symbolises part of the problem. If Mahomes and the Chiefs think they need someone on the staff who’s prepared to ruffle a few feathers, I’ll take that as gospel for most teams. At the very least, Carroll needs someone on his staff who is going to deliver accountability. I’m afraid his son and a pal with a potato-based nickname simply aren’t cutting it.

— I think there’s something in the whole ’49ers struggle against mobile quarterbacks’ narrative. Russell Wilson always did well against the Shanahan Niners. Lamar Jackson looked very good yesterday, even if there wasn’t that much scrambling. I just wonder, with a player like Jayden Daniels in the draft in 2024, whether the Seahawks need to give a lot of thought to finding a way to acquire him. It wouldn’t just be because he can move around. Daniels is also a very good deep-ball passer and I’ve seen enough evidence on tape of progression work to feel like it can become a staple of his next-level game. Having a quarterback who can move around and keep a defense in contain is a big plus anyway — I would like them to explore this possibility more, particularly with Daniels’ availability in the next draft.

— I was a big fan of Lamar Jackson at Louisville, as regulars will know. He had special qualities. He only lasted until the 32nd pick in the 2018 draft because of a catastrophic pre-draft process which included refusing to do much at the combine and being a pain in the arse to contact for meetings/workouts because he insisted on his mother being his agent (a problem that extended into contract talks with the Ravens, too). I think it’s a reminder that when discussing drafting a QB, you’ve got to look for those special qualities and not focus too much on negatives. Lamar had unreal ability as a runner to go with a tremendous arm and skill as a passer. He had first class traits. These are the players you take a chance on. It’s why I liked C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson so much this year. They had traits you can work with to enhance. Special qualities. They might not work out — but those types of players give you the best opportunity to find a difference maker at a vital position. It’s also why I continue to believe Spencer Rattler is someone to keep in our minds. If Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye are going to be long gone by the time Seattle picks, Rattler won’t be. His arm talent is special. There’s a reason why he drew comparisons to Mahomes when he was being touted as a potential #1 pick three years ago. He’s a changed man at South Carolina — he plays within structure, he’s matured greatly and he retains all of that special arm talent. If he lasts, as previous very talented players have done (Lamar, Russell Wilson) — just keep his name in mind. I’m glad nobody talks about him but there’s a reason why he turned pro when the rest of college football’s big name quarterbacks bolted for a big pay-day in the portal. I think Rattler’s getting much more positive NFL feedback than people realise.

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