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Curtis Allen’s week sixteen watch-notes (vs Titans)

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen…

Every game this season has told us something about the Seahawks. What will today’s game against the Titans tell us?

Several things, actually.

Coming off an emotional, last-minute, perhaps season-saving win against the Eagles Monday, we will see if the Seahawks can buckle down and refocus on their next opponent – something that has been very challenging for them this year.

In a big-picture sort of way though, a game like this could tell us all we need to know about where the Seahawks are going.

Consider what happened to them last year.

The Seahawks started out 6-3, in a good spot at the midway point of the season. Then came losses against teams they should have beaten and losses to superior teams that they struggled to keep up with sandwiched around a win that was much harder than it should have been. In a spot where they are playing for their playoff lives, they face a battered team decimated by injuries that they should easily handle.

After a promising start, they stumbled with losses to inferior teams (Las Vegas, Tampa, Carolina), beat a team with a battered roster by a hair (LA Rams) and were handled by superior teams (Kansas City and San Francisco). At 7-8 theyhosted the New York Jets, a tough team but at that time a shell of themselves, needing a win to keep their heads above water.

Ring any bells? Yes, it’s Groundhog Day in Seattle. Again.

A lukewarm 23-6 win against the Jets gave them no momentum. They barely beat the Rams in overtime and then were ushered out of the playoffs when San Francisco stepped on the gas in the second half of their game.

This year’s version of the Jets are the Tennessee Titans. At 5-9 they are out of the playoffs, having waived a white flag of surrender a few weeks into the season. They announced this week that a good chunk of their defensive starters – including monster defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons – are out for the season. They will be running out defensive backs nobody should be afraid to target. Will Levis will likely yield to Ryan Tannehill and their offensive line is no longer the powerhouse it once was.

A team with the Seahawks’ level of talent should have this game in hand by halftime if they truly want to consider themselves a playoff contender.

What makes this such a good tune-up? Several reasons:

— The Titans are tough at home. Their poor record stems from going 1-6 on the road. They are 4-3 at home. Two of those losses were in overtime and the third was to Baltimore — but only by 8 points. Despite their roster being a rotating cast, they have always performed far better at home than on the road.

— They still have talent akin to many playoff teams – a nice running back duo and a top wide receiver on offense plus two good pass rushers in Denico Autry and Harold Landry.

— Mike Vrabel is still a very effective coach. He has proven able to motivate his team and put a good game plan together. Just two weeks ago, they went into Miami and shocked the Dolphins. Two seasons ago, he brought his team into Seattle and turned a 24-9 halftime deficit into a 33-30 win. After that game, Pete Carroll and the players made several remarks that said without explicitly stating it that they were out-coached.

Going into Tennessee and delivering a solidly played, well-schemed, convincing win would do more for the franchise than the last-minute drive to win the game against Philadelphia.

What factors do they have to consider in order to do that?

When the Titans Have the Ball

The Titans defense is so hammered by injuries, this is likely where the game will be won or lost. If the Titans can control the game and keep the Seahawk offense off the field as much as possible, they may have a shot to keep the game close.

The Seahawks have come crashing back down to earth in run defense after a decent start to the season. They currently rank #27 in the NFL in yards conceded per attempt and are #30 in the NFL in rushing touchdowns conceded.

That is a problem. The Titans are running out a great duo of Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears. Both of them could be a real problem for this defense.

Henry, we know all too well. He ran for 182 yards and three touchdowns in their last meeting, exposing the Seahawks run defense as not up to the task. While he is not the same player he was that year as he approaches 30 in a couple of weeks, he still can be effective — particularly when not asked to carry the whole offense on his back.

He broke the 100-yard barrier on only 21 carries three weeks ago and has six rushing touchdowns in the last four games. There should be no taking him lightly.

Henry is now nicely complemented by rookie Tyjae Spears, who has lately been receiving an increased role in the offense. What does he bring to the table? Rob profiled him before the draft.

I had Tyjae Spears graded in round two in my latest horizontal board. He is so electric and despite being lighter than ideal (205lbs) he has such a proportionate frame with a thick, explosive lower body. He had a big run during team drills…he took advantage to explode through the whole and then make the safety Chris Smith of Georgia miss at the second level. He’s a dynamite player and someone who could be a nice complement to Ken Walker.

That scouting has proven correct. Have a look at what he offers.

These two backs are primed to exploit the Seahawks’ defensive weakness of taking bad angles and poor tackling.

Spears in particular will present a problem in the passing game. He currently is providing the Titans with 8.4 yards after the catch per reception and has several explosive plays. The Seahawks have had real problems defending running backs in the passing game again this season. Spears will be a particular challenge — one that perhaps they are ready for, having made some changes in their defensive backfield.

Ryan Tannehill will likely start at quarterback. Connecting with DeAndre Hopkins could present some real challenges for this defense at times. But the chances of that are not great. Why?

Tannehill has been dreadful this year throwing past the sticks. It likely was the reason that he got benched for Will Levis.

When you cannot make any passes deeper than 10 yards, the defense has very little to fear and can be aggressive.

Tannehill this year is 24 of 57 when targeting receivers further up field than 10 yards. That is a 42% completion rate. He has one touchdown against six interceptions. Further, he had been sacked 19 times in six games.

That is great for most defenses. But in Seattle, it could be trouble if the Offensive Coordinator has been watching Seahawks game tape. The Seahawks are still weak in coverage in the short middle zone of the field.

Tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo is following up on a very solid rookie season. He has a fantastic explosive ability for a player of his size, testing with a 1.59 10-yard split and a 4.52 40-yard dash. He could be a matchup nightmare for the defense.

The Seahawks will need to be very clever with their personnel. On the one hand, linebackers like Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner could be assets against the run game. On the other, they are liability in pass protection and last week were ineffective when blitzing (four blitzes and zero pressures or sacks between them).

Last week, the entire defense could only manage three pressures on Jalen Hurts and did not sack him. He had an 8% pressure rate, a quarterback’s dream.

If the Seahawks do not find ways to put pressure on Ryan Tannehill, a game that should be an easy win can turn into something uglier real fast.

When the Seahawks Have the Ball

Before all of their injuries, the Titans were very middling on defense, ranking between #17-20 in rush defense, pass defense and points per game.

A good chunk of that is because the offense has not performed up to their usual standards. When they cannot consistently run the ball and then take shots in the passing game off play action, the defense will be on the field too much. The more chances you give opposing offenses, the better the odds that sooner or later they will break through.

Their best feature is they are tied for #8 in the NFL for sacks with 41. Landry, Denico, Simmons and Arden Key have been a potent combination. Even though Simmons will not play, the Seahawks will need Abe Lucas and Charles Cross to have a very solid game in pass protection in order to avoid the offense being consistently disrupted.

If they can manage it, there should be nothing standing in the Seahawks’ way other than themselves.

In Safety Amani Hooker, Corner Sean Murphy-Bunting and Safety K’Von Wallace, they represent over 1800 defensive snaps that will not be playing. Kristian Fulton (PFF 48.4), Elijah Molden (49.8) and Terrell Edmunds (59.6) will be in their place.

We are all aware that the talent level between starters and backups can be pretty slim and that a terrific coordinator can make up for a lack of talent with a brilliant game plan.

Still, if the Seahawks cannot find ways to dominate this backfield with D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and three very capable tight ends, the chances of it being because the Titans defense is playing well are very, very slim.

In the early part of the game, they need to establish the run, get the tight ends involved and get the wide receivers running some quick passing routes to keep the pass rush off balance. Once they have built up a lead, they can start a mix of pounding the Titans in the running game to kill the clock and calling increasingly aggressive plays that do not fear the pass rush.

This game will likely be the last real chance this season to unleash this offense with all of its weapons. If they can put together a game plan that gets them ahead early, they can control the entire game and come home with a comfortable win.

Yes, the Seahawks still need to draft a quarterback

Go and get your guy, John

It’s funny how a narrative changes in a flash.

We’ve gone from John Middlekauff and Colin Cowherd calling Geno Smith mediocre three weeks ago and saying he needed to be replaced in the off-season, to Middlekauff now saying this week that Smith ‘shouldn’t be replaced in the 2024 draft’ (although there’s more nuance than the video title suggests).

Smith hasn’t even played in the last two games. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, maybe? He only watched Drew Lock lead the 92-yard drive to beat the Eagles on Monday night, he didn’t execute that drive himself.

Lock’s overall performance, it has to be said, was unspectacular. None of this article is a review of the starting competition between the two players. Smith, for me at least, has shown to be superior. There’s a reason why he initially won and retained the job. The Philadelphia victory was a nice story and Lock won a lot of admirers, rightfully so, for the emotional reaction he had to the final drive.

However, it wasn’t a surprise that Pete Carroll immediately announced Smith would start against the Titans on Christmas Eve if healthy. It’s not even a question in Carroll’s mind, clearly. Some will disagree but I’m with Carroll on this one. In his shoes, I would pick Smith to start the final three regular season games. He gives the Seahawks the best chance to win each game. I don’t think we need to ‘see’ what Lock can do — because neither player feels like the future.

And really that’s the point. I was surprised to see Middlekauff, an excellent pundit, just rowing back expectations slightly about the future at quarterback. It makes me wonder if Smith’s future will become a hot topic again.

There are lots of what I’d call ‘extreme’ opinions on Smith online. There are people who just think he’s useless and that is wrong. Equally, there are people who go overboard in their praise. The truth is somewhere in the middle. He’s a perfectly adequate quarterback to get you through a period where the franchise has no long-term option. He’s also the kind of quarterback you spend every year debating how to replace with a younger, better alternative.

He’s a bridge.

As with all bridge quarterbacks, there comes a natural point where they outstay their welcome as a starter. Not upgrading caps your ceiling at a certain level as a potential contender. We’ve seen plenty of teams stuck in football purgatory.

Although people make arguments about Seattle’s O-line, Smith has not played well for stretches this season. He has more weapons than most to enable him to succeed. He has been the trigger-man when the offense has gone whole halves without appearing remotely competent. True enough, he has also been the quarterback during periods of excellent production.

The Dallas game recently is being used as an example of Smith at his best. I think you can also make a case that it’s Smith and Seattle’s offense at its best and worst. For three quarters they were going toe-to-toe with the Cowboys. In the final quarter, with the game on the line, they didn’t score a point. They failed on three fourth-down conversions. For Dallas, Dak Prescott made the plays that mattered. He was clutch. He won the game and Smith and the Seahawks couldn’t. As we’ve seen in other games this season, the good play vanished into thin air.

This streaky nature has dogged the Seahawks. It’s not all Smith and I’d never try to argue that. The play-calling in particular this year has been maddening, with basic-route concepts and very little imagination to give the QB an easy-out under pressure.

Further to this, the Seahawks never look like a team that puts together a game-plan to feature its best (and most expensive) weapons against an opponent’s weakness. On Monday night, Seattle’s final drive saw every throw targeting the struggling cornerback James Bradberry. Why did it take until the final drive to do that? Why was D.K. Metcalf — a thorn in Philly’s side in the previous two games between the teams — stuck on one-catch for eight yards before that 92-yard feast? There was a matchup here just begging to be exploited.

Compare that to the way Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay attack Seattle’s weak areas from the get-go.

So yeah, it’s not all Smith. But there are issues. He was second in the NFL for turnover-worthy plays in 2022. This year, he was trending towards a similar ranking before his injury. He had five in the San Francisco and Dallas games alone. He has 19 for the season. His touchdown/interception ratio of 15/9 is thoroughly mediocre. He’s PFF’s 16th ranked QB. Now he’s starting to miss games through injury. Recently, K.J. Wright (almost certainly connected to the locker room) offered a telling and dramatic eye-roll when asked if Smith was a leader on the team.

None of this is conducive with a sudden about-turn on his suitability to be anything other than a temporary option.

Smith is due a cap-hit of $31.2m in 2024, a tripling of his $10.1m salary this year. You can’t argue that his performance this season warrants a x3 pay increase. Especially when, according to Over The Cap, the Seahawks are now projected to start the next league year $9.1m in the red (effective cap space).

The contract was always set up to be flexible and there’s no way Smith will be on the books for $31.2m (potentially rising to $33.2m if he hits the one remaining escalator available to him — percentage of snaps + playoff qualifications/wins). That will be resolved quite quickly at the end of the season to save money.

Back to what Middlekauff was saying in his video. He makes an argument which isn’t completely invalid regarding Chris Ballard and the Colts. Basically, the Colts shockingly lost Andrew Luck to retirement right before the 2019 season. Indianapolis then spent the next few years scrambling around to find stop-gap options at quarterback. Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan. None worked out, to the point Ballard came under pressure. Only losing sufficiently to put themselves in position to select Anthony Richardson with the #4 pick solved the problem and bought Ballard some breathing space.

Middlekauff makes the case for Ballard’s approach:

“If we’re not drafting high, I’ve got to really like a guy at pick #22 to just pull the trigger. You want me to just draft Kenny Pickett or Mac Jones? If I had to bet now, Seattle’s going to go 9-8, probably get in the playoffs. That means you’re drafting at pick #21, #22. What if there’s not a good quarterback? I’m not opposed to trading up and getting a guy that you really like but I don’t think it’s crazy. They’ve won 16 games with Geno (in the last two seasons — although they haven’t, he didn’t play against the Eagles, so it’s 15). If their defense was just a little bit better, if they add another pass rusher, their team’s got a lot of talent. Now the quarterback situation is obviously not ideal but just because you trade up and get Bo Nix or Jayden Daniels, it doesn’t mean those guys are going to be any good.”

I don’t disagree with a lot of this. It’s not a good idea to trade up, mortgaging your future, on a quarterback who isn’t worth it. That’s stating the obvious.

I suppose my angle here, though, is do we know nobody in this draft is worthy, to bring this up as a relevant point in relation to what the Seahawks should do in 2024? I would argue that there potentially are players worth moving up for. Thus, I’m not sure this is something to be feared.

I’d go a stage further. I think there will be players worth considering without moving up. Take a shot. I’m a big Chris Ballard fan — I just think you do have to take more risks than just Jacob Eason in round four, as he did, while waiting for a Holy Grail that isn’t likely to slap you in the chops.

Ballard’s approach feels like a shrug of the shoulders in the direction of a problem. If the Seahawks resign themselves to needing to be blown away by a quarterback in order to ever draft one, are they really competing to get better at the position? If they were to use a pick on a player that in previous years ended up being, for example, L.J. Collier, Marquise Blair, Jordyn Brooks, Boye Mafe or Derrick Hall to roll the dice on a young quarterback, is that any more of a risk? Is it wrong? Are you any more likely to succeed or fail for taking the chance?

Should there be a level of certainty required at the most important position versus, say, a defensive lineman or safety? Or are the Seahawks now at a point where really, they should be taking shots to try and find the future — even if it means embracing the fact that you might not hit the bullseye with your first dart?

You could argue this is especially the case when a player such as Lamar Jackson lasts deep into the first round. That was an oversight from the league in 2018 clearly. You can’t afford to be the team stuck in mediocrity who makes such a mistake, as many teams did when Jackson was available, because he had a bit of an iffy pre-draft process or had a few question marks (that were off-set by brilliant physical talent).

Lest we forget that Daniel Jeremiah didn’t list Mahomes among his top-50 prospects in February ahead of the 2017 draft, or an updated version in April, weeks before he was taken 10th overall. Deshone Kizer, however, was ranked on both occasions. In Jeremiah’s final April 2017 mock draft, he eventually did include Mahomes in round one at #27 overall — a late first round projection.

If we were talking in December seven years ago, discussing drafting Mahomes in the first round, many would’ve scoffed. Nobody expected a team to trade into the top-10 for him. Now, it’s one of the most inspired moves in NFL history.

Hindsight is glorious, obviously, but it seems safe to say that elite players are not always obviously elite players — even at quarterback. Take some chances.

Don’t be too picky.

The occasional narrative of avoiding the position unless you see a sure-fire home-run player bothers me. I think we saw that last year with the way the top QB’s were nit-picked. C.J. Stroud was being touted for a slumping fall before the draft. How silly does that seem now? Will Levis dropped to the top of round two and that feels somewhat misguided, given a fairly promising start in a difficult situation with the Titans. Both were physically very talented.

Back to the Seahawks, we’ve gone from a fairly common debate in recent weeks about the need to find a long-term answer at quarterback — something Middlekauff and Cowherd actively discussed — to now one half of the same duo saying, ‘if only the Seahawks spend another high pick on the defense’.

How much more investment is required on defense before it’s in a position to succeed or you try a different approach? I feel like we’ve been here, done that and bought an over-priced T-shirt. Running it back with Geno Smith, spending a top-25 pick on another edge rusher to replace Darrell Taylor and coming back again next year feels like a great way to waste 12 months. Rinse and repeat.

So while I appreciate it might not be possible for the Seahawks to put themselves in a position to draft a QB with their native pick, I still think any discussion about the future should include — at the forefront — a debate about drafting a quarterback early, potentially trading up, what the options actually are (I mean, why shouldn’t they move up for Jayden Daniels? Let’s have that conversation) and whether there are going to be any day-two alternatives (I believe there will be, despite the influx of QB’s entering the transfer portal).

Identify a player who ticks a lot of boxes who you believe can be developed into a starter and go get them. Be prepared, too, for that player not to succeed — and you needing to repeat the act in the near future.

This process (the search for an answer at QB) could/should be more extensive than simply waiting for ‘the one’. Otherwise you just embrace the purgatory situation we talked about. If you’re not prepared to take chances through fear of error, you’ll never move forward. In fairness, John Schneider — as conservative as he’s been in selecting QB’s in Seattle — comes from Green Bay where they were never afraid to collect quarterbacks. I hope this isn’t an ego thing at play — the man who hit a home-run with Russell Wilson, now not wanting to blot his copybook unless he’s convinced he’s found the next superstar.

This fear has grown for me the more I’ve studied Quinn Ewers at Texas and noted the growing chatter that he might not declare. Clearly if the Longhorns win the National Championship that could change and he might turn pro. It was long thought he was on a ‘three-years-and-done’ trajectory in college. If he doesn’t turn pro, though, I wonder if that might influence Schneider. Ewers — from a physical talent, technique and personality stand-point feels very much like the kind of player he would fall hard for. Would he wait for him?

There are going to be other quarterbacks in the 2024 draft with playmaking ability and physical talent, plus college success. The challenge is to harness everything and prepare them for the next level.

While Seattle’s roster isn’t close to San Francisco’s in talent, it does feel suitably padded due to two good drafts. They don’t have a ton of glaring needs. It’s the right moment to throw a young QB into the mix, whether that’s as a red-shirt player or immediate starting competition.

Re-working Smith’s contract feels inevitable, as does his return in 2024. The Seahawks should still plan to draft a quarterback.

I hope that we’re not witnessing the early days of a blossoming ‘run it back’ campaign — where a cosy end-of-season schedule gives everyone an opportunity to believe that another year of Pete Carroll and Geno Smith, with even more splurging on the defense, will lead to better results than the 16-16 record the pair have overseen in the last two seasons.

Just draft one more defender early? Just wait for the ideal QB to fall into your lap?

Not for me.

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Everything I think after the Eagles win

Sorry this is later than usual but here are my thoughts following the Eagles win…

Sign Leonard Williams to an extension now

It might cost you a bit more to get it done but who cares? You made a very expensive trade to acquire Williams and the focus now has to be making sure his future is in Seattle. He has played very well despite the 2-5 record since his arrival. This team cannot afford to waste a second round pick on a rental. They need to get a deal done.

Cap space is extremely tight for 2024 (they’re currently projected to be $9.5m over the cap next year) but we know changes are coming. Jamal Adams’ days are surely numbered for a start. They will cut other players like Bryan Mone. I’d argue it’s highly unlikely they are going to triple Geno Smith’s salary, given he’s now missing games to go along with a year that wasn’t as good as last season.

You have to commit to Williams. You have to go to him and make him an offer he can’t refuse. Don’t allow him to reach free agency and potentially have his head turned. Let’s not forget, the Rams currently have about $30m to spend next year. They could try and lure him back to California to play with Aaron Donald. You can’t allow that to happen. You have to make sure this wasn’t a wasted second rounder.

His performance against the Eagles was so impactful — he was pretty much the only defensive lineman making a difference. The Seahawks have a responsibility to keep him. He has to be in Seattle next season.

I can’t think of a better Christmas gift this week than committing Williams to a new deal. He ticks every box — talented, impactful, character fit.

Don’t rely on being able to recruit him in free agency. Tie him down now and let’s put to bed the word ‘rental’ once and for all.

Incredible Jaxon Smith-Njigba

What an unbelievable catch that was to win the game. Stunning. It’s the kind of play you need to see from a player you draft as highly as JSN. The nature of the catch — finger-tips at full stretch, the body-control, the fact he got open in the first place, then the ability to complete the catch to the ground. That was special — one of the best catches to win a football game you’ll see.

We don’t need to see Jamal Adams play for the Seahawks again

Nothing more needs to be said.

Well done to Drew Lock, but…

If the Seahawks want to give themselves the best chance to win their remaining three games, Geno Smith — for me — is still the better player. That was a fantastic 92-yard drive to win the game by Lock and he deserves credit for it. Up until that point, though, he looked very similar to Charlie Whitehurst.

For me it’s pretty much a pointless debate anyway. Smith has already been declared the starter by Pete Carroll if healthy next week and neither player is the answer long term. The Seahawks have to find a way to draft a quarterback.

I have mixed feelings about the win

There’s no point lying about it, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when the Seahawks won. I don’t think it makes me a ‘bad fan’, although some will suggest that. I never root against the Seahawks, I just watched with a very balanced emotional state. I also stayed up until 5:30am to watch then reflect on the game (just in case anyone wants to question my commitment to the cause).

I do fear, though, that the Seahawks are now absolutely heading for the playoffs — which will create the impression that everything is mostly OK again, will put off necessary changes to drive the team forwards and a lot of the conversations we’ve been having for the last few years will simply extend into 2024.

The perfect scenario would be ending the season with a flourish to allow Carroll to bow-out gracefully. That would be the best of both worlds. Instead I suspect we’re going to see an epic papering over the cracks with a playoff qualification that will be of the back-door nature, in a NFC that is — if we’re being honest — absolutely woeful apart from one team. Talk of ‘running it back’ and it being ‘crazy’ to part with Carroll will emerge, even though all of the relevant complaints from recent weeks remain. They beat a collapsing Eagles team who look a shadow of their former selves.

I think for the Seahawks to have a chance to be great again they need an offensive-minded Head Coach (Bobby Slowik increasingly feels like a great shout, especially if you’re drafting a QB) and a new young quarterback. Immediate contention isn’t very likely but I think it’ll set you on the path to potentially get there.

I cannot in any way, shape or form imagine Carroll, Clint Hurtt and Shane Waldron leading the Seahawks to the promise land. I can’t even imagine them getting one over Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay in the division. The thought of another year of watching four embarrassing defeats to the 49ers and Rams is about as desirable as watching ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ (the worst film ever made).

I appreciate other people’s response to this is ‘just enjoy the win’. I respect anyone who feels that way and does indeed want to take solace and enjoyment from inflicting a third straight defeat on the Eagles. If you disagree with me, that’s perfectly cool. All I ask is you offer that same attitude to me. I am less enthused than you are about the win because it increases the chances of necessary changes not happening after this season. That concerns me, because I can’t see any alternative other than the same repetitive issues with the Carroll Seahawks. More bad defense. More inconsistent identity. More failing to provide answers or solutions to problems. More losing to Shanahan and McVay.

The last few weeks have felt like a natural end is on the horizon after 14 years. I don’t feel any differently after this game.

That was my prevailing thought after the win. I don’t like it but can’t lie either.

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

Curtis Allen’s week fifteen watch-notes (vs Eagles)

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen…

The Seahawks and the Eagles find themselves in very similar circumstances as they prepare to face off tonight.

Although the Eagles are far better positioned – having already secured a playoff spot at 10-3 – they find themselves not playing very good football. They have been playing to a level that is less than the sum of their parts.

When faced with some of the NFL’s better teams, the defense has not been able to match up with them very well in terms of scheme and execution. Their tackling and effort have been off and their linebackers and safeties have been easy targets for enterprising offensive coordinators. They currently are the worst team in the NFL at getting off the field on third downs.

As a result, in the last six games, they have allowed an average of 428 yards and 30 points.

It is not completely the defense’s fault though. The Eagles in that same stretch have starved their running backs of carries and put the lion’s share of their offense on the shoulders of the passing game. Therefore, the defense has been on the field far more than they should be and the team is routinely behind in time of possession.

They come into this week’s game looking to get back on their feet and recalibrate to get on track for the stretch run and the playoffs.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

While the Eagles and Seahawks do not have a direct rivalry by nature of their geography, they often find each other at a bit of a crossroads for both franchises. They usually meet at a time when they are struggling with their division mates and trying to confirm their status as a contender. Tonight is no exception.

Pete Carroll has long come out ahead in these sorts of encounters. He has never once lost to the Eagles in his Seahawks tenure. That might bring a measure of comfort to Seahawks fans but the truth is, many things have changed since these two last met in November of 2020.

Nick Sirianni has taken over as head coach, Jalen Hurts has become a fixture at quarterback and they punctuated their ascent with a Super Bowl appearance last season.

Meanwhile, Seattle has been one of the NFL’s worst defenses in that stretch. The addition of a ridiculously priced safety team to the detriment of the defensive line combined with a lack of coordinators that can scheme up the talent they do have has conspired to crush any hopes of making a deep playoff run.

The Seahawks are most certainly at a crossroads. Having lost four in a row, they limp into the final leg of the Quadrangle of Death stretch of their schedule with very dim prospects.

A talent-stacked defense looks shaky and slow. The offense struggles to support it by either turning the ball over, three-and-outing or ironically, scoring too quickly. Questions of motivation from Pete Carroll, the job competency of both coordinators, game planning and the handling of internal matters are dogging this team at the worst possible time.

This matchup is the Eagles’ typical strength against the Seahawks’ typical weakness: trench play. The game has many stars like A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, De’Andre Swift and Kenneth Walker. But the battle is won or lost on the lines and the Eagles have a decided advantage there.

Which, according to the Magic-eight-ball-like way the NFL operates, means the Seahawks will put together a solid effort and make this game competitive.

Let’s look at how that could happen.

Attack Philadelphia with the Passing Game

I have spent a ton of time in my previous posts beating the drum for the Seahawks to employ their investments in the running back position more liberally. The Seahawks have been unusually pass-happy this year, going into this weekend’s slate of games as the #5 offense in the NFL in play selection being the pass.

Yet they have an opportunity to really control this game by taking advantage of the Eagles’ weakness in defending the pass.

First off, the personnel: Their best corner (Darius Slay) will not play due to injury. That means that they will likely roll out 31-year-old Bradley Roby (who has been more of a plug in nickel/safety type the last couple seasons) or rookie Kelee Ringo (a fourth-round size/speed prospect Rob scouted extensively), who has 28 NFL snaps of experience at defense in his spot.

Their other starting corner (James Bradberry) is hitting age 30 hard and has yet to adjust to losing a step in his speed. Currently, Bradberry has given up more touchdowns than any corner in the NFL with 10. Quarterbacks have a 111 rating when targeting him and he is conceding 11 yards per reception in coverage.

New acquisition Kevin Byard has only one interception this season and is sporting a 109 QB rating when targeted and Reed Blankenship is still trying to fill out in his first year as a full-time starter. If the Seahawks manage to get Blankenship isolated on a receiver – any receiver – that should be a win for them.

The Eagles are a bit stuck with their personnel. The linebackers are just a step ahead of Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks in coverage and offenses have “caught” them on the field in passing situations often and taken advantage.

If I had to guess, the change in defensive coordinators means more man coverage than zone. Sean Desai ran out an extraordinary percentage of zone and without elite corner or safety play, teams were able to find their holes rather easily and exploit them regularly.

Now the stats. The Eagles are the NFL’s worst team in defending wide receivers. They have given up 206 catches and 23 touchdowns — both of which are league-bottom. Only the Washington Commanders have given up more yards to wide receivers than the Eagles have. You might recall that Geno Smith and the Seahawks had a season-best day throwing the ball against Washington, recording 369 yards through the air.

Are they covering Tight Ends any better? Not really, no. They have conceded six touchdowns and are allowing a 75% completion rate when Tight Ends are targeted.

D.K. Metcalf. Tyler Lockett. Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Jake Bobo. Noah Fant.

Someone on the Eagle defense is going to be overmatched every time one of those players is on the field. While it seems easy to say the quarterback’s job will be to find the mismatch and exploit it, there is no matchup he should be concerned about, save for a double or triple team.

In truth his biggest job will be to make sure he makes himself available to throw the ball cleanly.

I am guessing that Matt Patricia will dial back the blitz a bit and be more selective. Consider this a “shooting fish in a barrel” move because the Eagles are one of the NFL’s worst defenses when they blitz: They have no interceptions, have conceded a 69% completion rate for an average of 8.7 yards per attempt and eight touchdowns. They only have 10 sacks on the blitz but are one of the better teams in the NFL when it comes to Hurries and Pressures (both #2). Some of that is a function of them not getting off the field properly, as their Pressure Rate is 23.4%, good for #9 in the NFL. That sounds good but another pedestrian game like the streak they are on will have them dropping into the teens.

The NFL is trending towards quick throws and yards after catch to defend the pass rush. The Seahawks will need to employ both of these things and their quarterback will need to discern when to get rid of the ball and when to use his feet to ascend in the pocket to create time for options and deeper routes to open up.

Another way to take advantage of the defense: get a lead early and maintain it. This defense has recorded only six of their 37 sacks this year when behind on the scoreboard. That may change with Patricia but this defense loses their teeth when trying to get the team back in the game. Add in their poor third down record and it creates a bit of a cascading loop the have not been able to escape from lately.
There is no excuse for the Seahawks to not take advantage of their weakness.

Stop De’Andre Swift

I imagine that Eagles fans are as frustrated as Seahawks fans about their use of running backs this year. Old friend Rashaad Penny has been an afterthought, only being active for two games and getting a grand total of six touches in 2023 so far.

Especially lately, their choices on offense with feature back De’Andre Swift have been very confusing.

Swift got a meager 11 touches against Dallas in their big loss last week, after recording only eight touches against San Francisco the week before.

Lately the Eagles offense has devolved into three main options: running Jalen Hurts, liberally throwing to A.J. Brown on the slant play that was his bread and butter when with the Titans and taking deeper shots with DeVonta Smith (only five WR’s in the NFL have more targets deeper than Smith).

It has gotten a bit stale and predictable and opponents like San Francisco and Dallas have sniffed it out and taken advantage of their lack of diversity.

When Swift is used liberally and properly, he is an engine that makes the Eagle offense go. They have used him wisely at times and then decided to limit his touches at times, despite him not appearing on the injury report even once this year (not even after getting absolutely rocked by Kam Chancellor, I mean, Deommodre Lenoir).

With questions of Jalen Hurts’ health and the potential of backup Marcus Mariota stepping in tonight, it is logical that the Eagles would turn to Swift to carry much more of the load.

The defense will need to be better in between the tackles and react decisively when they try to gadget Swift up with some plays to loosen the linebackers and safeties up for deeper shots.

Play Better

This is more of a gripe than a watch point.

The Seahawks have failed to make their fans proud of the way they play for much of this season.

Poorly timed penalties, losing their cool, bad play calls, ‘what were you possibly thinking’ mistakes, turnovers, bad angles and worse tackling have all been regular features of games we have had to endure this year.


There is a stink over this franchise currently and perhaps it is one that can only be solved by regime change.

But for one game – even in a loss – this team needs to reward fans’ patience with a solid, well-put together effort that can give us some reason to keep intently watching for the rest of the season.

The whole nation will be watching tonight. Can they deliver it?

We will see.

The problem with NFL purgatory

Change is needed in Seattle & Pittsburgh

There are only two worthwhile descriptions for a NFL franchise.

Super Bowl contender, or on a journey to become a Super Bowl contender.

If you don’t fit either category, it’s a waste of time.

A lot is made of Mike Tomlin’s record of never having a losing season. It sounds great. The reality is the Steelers haven’t won a playoff game since 2016. They do a great job avoiding being awful (until now, at least). That’s it. Hang the banner.

Tomlin’s teams have muddled along, being good enough to be vaguely relevant for a period without anyone actually thinking they’re going to win a Super Bowl.

This year they’re 7-7 with at least a chance to once again avoid a losing season. Yet during a three-game losing streak against the Cardinals, Patriots and Colts — nobody can say with a straight face that the Steelers are ‘contenders’.

For me, this is a dangerous place for a team to be. It prevents you from taking the actions needed to become contenders again. It’s why I worry about the Seahawks — because it feels like they’re in a very similar place.

For Seattle it’s one playoff win in six years, against a very average Eagles team featuring 40-year-old Josh McCown at quarterback. In the last seven seasons (including this one), they’ve won the NFC West just once. It’s their worst run since re-joining the division in 2002.

The Seahawks have been far from a bad team but they’ve also consistently felt like they’re a ways off being a serious challenger. On top of this, persistent issues have blighted the team — such as poor defensive output and an identity that comes and goes. It’s been nearly a decade since the Seahawks have felt like a legit contender.

Whenever this is brought up, there’s a rapid-fire response from some fans accusing others of being ‘spoilt’. How can you possibly complain about being in the playoff mix? Other teams would love to be in that position.

I would challenge that. Fans of the Browns, for example, do not dream of being the Seahawks. They dream of being the Chiefs, competing in three Super Bowls in recent years. They dream of being the 49ers, a consistent contender for multiple years. They’ll think about copying the Buccs and Rams, recent winners of the Super Bowl. Or can they find a way to emulate the Eagles, Super Bowl winners and runners-up within a few years?

They don’t want to be a team that is ‘good enough to maybe qualify for the playoffs’. It’s utterly pointless. As I said at the start, you need to either be a contender or be on a path to becoming one. Crappy teams don’t aspire to be average teams. The end result is the same. And fans of average teams shouldn’t settle into the comfort of merely not being ‘bad’.

I would argue the Steelers and Seahawks are stuck in a large NFL middle-ground — or purgatory as some people call it. They do just enough every year to stay in this zone and it just leads to avoiding making difficult decisions to enact needed change.

I can’t watch Pittsburgh’s last three games and think they’re a good off-season away. Their offense needs a total rebuild from scratch. This likely isn’t possible within 24 months, when a lot of the core, impressive defensive talent will be nearing the end of their careers.

The Seahawks are different, their issues flip-flop between offense and defense a lot more. They don’t have a defense like Pittsburgh’s but they have a better quarterback and weapons. Schematically they feel uncultured on both sides of the ball and they haven’t had a ‘big’ eye-catching win for several years (beating the Lions doesn’t count, I’m afraid).

The Steelers are 7-7 and the Seahawks are 6-7.

Both teams would lap the Panthers or Patriots in a race. Both would be battered by the 49ers and well-beaten by other legit contenders.

The problem is, neither team regresses enough to have a serious conversation about any of this. The topic is consistently dodged and those wishing to discuss it are derided as ungrateful lunatics.

Maybe Pittsburgh’s reaching that point now, given just how bad they’ve been recently? It started to happen in Seattle this week, with serious reporters speculating on Carroll’s future.

Yet if either or both teams sneak into the playoffs as a lousy seventh seed, making up the numbers so the greedy NFL can make even more money with it’s dumb ‘Super Wildcard Weekend’ nonsense, I suspect the same narrative will begin all over again.

How can you criticise Tomlin/Carroll, they’re in the playoffs!

Rinse and repeat. See you in 12 months where the same thing happens again. Meanwhile we all get a bit older, the Steelers still suck on offense and Carroll is still talking about trying to fix the same old problems and Jamal Adams is still earning a fortune to deliver a crappy PFF grade while celebrating the other team ‘only’ gaining seven yards on first down.

Neither team is on the path to contention. I suspect neither will get there without bold, serious change.

Firstly, the coaches. Both are Super Bowl winners yet neither seems likely to reach that point again. Particularly in the case of 72-year-old Carroll, with only two years remaining on his contract and possibly his career. Does anyone think two more years of doing the same thing in Seattle will lead to a title? If not, what’s the reason for continuing? Convenience ahead of a franchise sale we speculate a lot about but know little about in reality? Existing purely for Carroll to work to his preferred timescale, rather than what is most optimal for team success?

Meanwhile with Tomlin — Pittsburgh’s offense is so utterly dreadful, they look like a team that needs to pivot to a younger, more creative offensive mind — paired with a more aggressive approach to fixing the quarterback position.

They’ve been in charge since 2007 in Tomlin’s case and 2010 in Carroll’s. That’s a long time. Eventually, you need a different vision. Things can’t just go on forever. The Patriots are experiencing that currently. Bill Belichick’s legacy is being slightly impacted by seeing just how bad New England are without Tom Brady. Nobody will take away Belichick’s rightful place as one of the all-time greats. Yet it’s pretty clear now that Brady’s brilliance, paired with his ability to put up with Belichick’s grumpy, borderline toxic ways, is what led to so much success. Without Brady, the Patriots are bloody awful and fairly shambolic.

Without peak-Ben Roethlisberger, Tomlin likewise hasn’t been able to create a winner. Without the LOB, Marshawn Lynch and peak-Russell Wilson, Carroll’s in the same boat. Neither coach, as an individual, seems to be elevating their teams schematically. This is a stark contrast to the work of Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and even coaches like Zac Taylor, winning with a backup quarterback.

Tomlin and Carroll would be best served avoiding Belichick’s fate and going out with fond memories still attached, rather than letting things get even sourer.

Yet I can’t shake the feeling that the Seahawks will beat the collapsing, injury-hit Eagles on Monday and we’ll have a week of fans and media crowing that any suggestion of a future beyond Carroll is the stuff of entitlement and stupidity.

I said a few weeks ago I think Carroll can still be a Super Bowl Head Coach. In order to do it, though, he’d need to be prepared to change. My favourite Carroll quote is, “it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.” I wish he would’ve taken that advice a while ago, acknowledged his flaws (schematics, details) and gone out to employ the best coordinators money can buy and let them run the offense and defense, becoming an experienced overseer and motivator.

He’ll never do that. Control is too important for Carroll. He needs to do things his way. It’s the only reason he ever returned to the NFL, because the Seahawks were offering total control.

That’s not to say he hasn’t tried to delegate. Clearly we saw that with ‘Let Russ Cook’ in 2020. Yet at the first sign of trouble, he wrestled back control and they went back to Carroll-ball. It was indicative of how uncomfortable he is ceding responsibility and there’s no chance, sadly, of him ever being a Nick Saban type of Head Coach who gives the keys to his coordinators.

I can’t root against the Seahawks. I’m a Seahawks fan. I never miss a game, despite many beginning in the early hours of the morning. I’ve committed 15 years of my life to writing a blog about the team, eating my free time at a rate comparable to a dog let loose in a butcher’s.

I also can’t say I’ll be that pumped watching the Eagles game on Monday, or feeling very celebratory if they win. I fear the Seahawks will finish by beating some bad teams, potentially squeeze into the playoffs (they only need to usurp the Rams and Packers, who are both wildly inconsistent) and we’ll have more false dawn rhetoric, ‘run-it-back’ platitudes and we’ll get to witness 2024 looking exactly like 2023.

There are two, maybe three teams in the NFC who are actually good. The rest are mediocre or awful. Being seventh best in a bad conference, during a poor-quality NFL season, qualifying for the playoffs and then making very little noise in the post-season, is not attractive if all it does is delay the kind of front-line change required to get this team back to the top.

I don’t want to endure another year of excuses for having another very expensive bottom-10 defensive unit. I can’t listen to chatter about identity when they can’t run the ball. I don’t want to hear over-hyped praise for Seattle’s culture while people like Jamal Adams act like a jerk on social media with zero public accountability from Carroll or the team. Most importantly, I can’t watch Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay continue to dance rings around a coach who has no counter-punch for either of them.

New ideas, a new vision, a new quarterback, fresh attention to detail, expensive and underperforming players cut, re-emphasis on the trenches and the potential to be back on the path to contention, rather than deluding ourselves (as the Seahawks did with the Leonard Williams trade) that we’re already there.

That is what’s required in Seattle.

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Six Seahawks coaching candidates to consider

Brian Callahan (left) worked with Peyton Manning in Denver

I wasn’t going to post this unless things took a turn in the final four games. Then I heard Albert Breer, Mike Garafolo, Ian Rapoport and Gregg Bell all speculate on whether Pete Carroll might be coming to the end in the space of 24 hours and thought, I’m going to get this out there.

Rapoport, for what it’s worth, said on KJR today that he “really thought” Carroll was stepping down three years ago and also linked Dan Quinn as a replacement. He also couched his speculation by saying he hears this all the time and so far, it hasn’t happened. So he’d ‘almost have to hear it from the man himself’ to report it definitively.

Of course nothing has been decided and yes, it’s all what I’d call ‘educated speculation’ at this point. Breer, Garafolo, Rapoport and Bell aren’t just coincidently all opting to fire this into the air at the same time. There’s no smoke without fire. Yet the likelihood is that any decision will be heavily influenced by the next four games.

I’m not a big fan of that idea because I don’t think you should make a decision on such a small sample size of results. Either Carroll is energised and fully committed or he isn’t. Either the franchise believes he can win a Super Bowl before his contract expires in two years or they don’t. Finishing 9-8 and making the playoffs as a seventh seed shouldn’t change anything, assuming it’s a short-lived post-season berth.

This is likely the hand we’re dealt though as Seahawks fans. Either the team is going to turn things around and the status quo remains or Carroll appears to at least be contemplating the end.

Quinn is already being touted as a replacement and he would be on my list of candidates. I’ve written why below, along with five other options I think are worthy of being discussed.

Brian Callahan (OC, Cincinnati Bengals)

There are several reasons why Callahan appeals. Firstly, he understands the modern game. Watch this interview. He’s asked after 55 seconds to discuss how the NFL is evolving. He speaks about ‘the teams who win the most games’ and why they are succeeding (and it’s a very offensive-minded answer). To me this is the way the Seahawks need to go — using their weapons on offense to form a new identity.

I also think the Seahawks need to draft a quarterback early in 2024, possibly after moving up in the draft. Callahan has been the offensive coordinator with the Bengals since 2019. This means he has worked closely with Joe Burrow since he was drafted in 2020. Having experience of working with and developing a rookie is a big plus if the Seahawks are going to take that path next year.

Callahan is very experienced within the NFL. He worked closely with Peyton Manning in Denver and was on the staff when they won a Super Bowl. He has also helped guide the Bengals to the Super Bowl — so he knows what it takes to make a deep playoff run.

Despite an injury-plagued season for Burrow, the Bengals are currently ranked 11th for offense on DVOA. They’re currently winning games with Jake Browning in relief.

Finally, he is the son of long-time offensive line coach Bill Callahan. I don’t know whether they would have interest in working together but the idea of bringing his father — one of the best O-line coaches in the business — to Seattle would be a real asset.

Potential downside — he doesn’t call the plays in Cincinnati and that’s not always an easy adjustment, although he could hire an experienced play-caller.

Eric Bienemy (OC, Washington Commanders)

You can’t help but admire what Bienemy did this year. He could’ve stayed in Kansas City, coached Patrick Mahomes as Andy Reid’s right-hand man and enjoyed a fairly straight forward existence. Instead, he moved on to the disaster-zone that is Washington. He wanted to control an offense and show what he could do without Reid and Mahomes. Instead of the best offensive player in the league, he took on the challenge of a former fifth-round pick starting at QB for the first time (Sam Howell).

He’s done a good job. Howell has been productive. This has happened despite having no O-line to work with and very little in the way of weapons outside of Terry McLaurin. If you draft a quarterback in 2024, Bienemy has shown he can help develop that player and put him in a position to succeed.

Bienemy can lean on his experience working with Reid, he knows what it takes to win (double Super Bowl champion) and his offensive system will be modern, aggressive and would make the most out of Seattle’s weapons. It’d be very easy to get behind the appointment, giving Bienemy a long-anticipated opportunity to lead a team.

By taking a gamble in moving to Washington, he’s shown how determined he is to make things happen in terms of a Head Coaching position. I think that’s admirable and he’d be worth a shot.

Potential downside — he has been interviewed, and passed over, many times — there has to be a reason why.

Ben Johnson (OC, Detroit Lions)

Seen as the hot-shot offensive candidate for openings this off-season, Johnson passed over jobs in the last cycle to spend another year in Detroit. He’s played a big part in the Lions becoming explosive and dynamic — with the #7 ranked offense per DVOA. Johnson is creative and has managed to get a song out of Jared Goff after he was dumped by the Rams.

Johnson graduated from North Carolina with a degree in mathematics and computer science. He’s a good age (37) and is in-tune with all the modern elements of the NFL.

He basically runs the offense in Detroit. Although Dan Campbell is a former offensive player, he’s an overseer. In Johnson you’d be getting someone who knows how to run an offense, call plays and handle a lot of responsibility. There’s also a good staff in Detroit and you’d imagine he’d be able to surround himself with a decent group.

There’d also be some crossover in terms of identity. Campbell combines physical and tough with explosive in Detroit. The Lions are fourth in the league in rushing yards and fourth in yards-per-attempt. That’s what the Seahawks have been looking for. Perhaps Johnson can finally deliver?

Potential downside — he’s been able to work with a veteran QB in Detroit so there’s no experience of elevating a younger, unproven player. This could be a minor quibble if they intend to draft a quarterback.

Bobby Slowik (OC, Houston Texans)

The Texans have been a big surprise this year. They’re competitive, C.J. Stroud has been tremendous and the future seems bright. Slowik, who is from the Kyle Shanahan tree, has done a great job with Stroud. It helps that the quarterback is as talented as he is — but Slowik has earned rave reviews from Texans fans.

The idea of getting someone with first-hand experience of working with a young QB, plus someone who can install Shanahan’s offensive system, is very appealing. Houston’s offense, despite having little in the way of expectations this year, is currently ranked 12th per DVOA.

Although he only turned 36 this year, he was with the 49ers between 2017-2022. His final two jobs in San Francisco were passing game coordinator and passing game specialist. He would be able to incorporate some of the modern-day offensive scheming the Seahawks lack. He could also make the most of Seattle’s weapons — look how he has transformed Nico Collins and succeeded with Tank Dell.

Slowik has the feel of a true up-and-comer and we’ve seen coaches from the Shanahan/McVay tree mimic the Rams’ Head Coach by becoming accomplished leaders in their young careers.

Potential downside — after just one year of calling plays in Houston, he might be a little bit inexperienced. He also might prefer to spend another season with the Texans.

Mike LaFleur (OC, LA Rams)

It didn’t work for LeFleur with the Jets — but that could be down to the fact it was an impossible job to make Zach Wilson relevant. His was a short-lived spell as an offensive coordinator in New York but he might be stronger for the experience.

Speaking of experience, let’s look at his background. He was an offensive assistant for the Falcons working for Kyle Shanahan, before moving to the 49ers with Shanahan in 2017. He was passing game coordinator for three years in San Francisco before getting the Jets job. This year, he’s now Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator with the Rams. He’s achieved all of this despite only being 36-years-old.

Clearly Shanahan and McVay value his ability. This is a piece well worth reading on what he’s doing in LA and the trust he has earned:

The new offensive coordinator of the Rams is doing things McVay did in the past and things that Liam Coen, Kevin O’Connell, Shane Waldron, Zac Taylor and Matt LaFleur, Mike’s brother, never did when they were in similar positions under McVay.

McVay still will call plays, but he trusts LaFleur to take from his plate because LaFleur can connect with players and coaches.

“We’re lucky to have him,” McVay says of his 36-year-old assistant. “You know, he makes me feel a lot better about being able to be a head coach because he can lead those guys on offense. And while we see the game through a similar lens, he’s also not afraid to challenge me. And he takes the initiative.”

LaFleur’s brother Matt has been a net-success in Green Bay and when you’re rated this highly by McVay, I’m paying attention. Kevin O’Connell and Zac Taylor have also become good Head Coaches after working with McVay.

Potential downside: The Jets spell ended badly even if it was a tough gig and it’s hard to shake that from your memory.

Dan Quinn (DC, Dallas Cowboys)

The only defensive-minded coach on the list. I get the sense he learned a lot from his time in Atlanta. When he lost Kyle Shanahan, things kind of fell apart. There’s always a chance that happens again but I think he appreciates the need to have a certain caliber of offensive mind calling the plays.

Quinn knows the Seahawks and has a prior connection to the team, which could make for a smoother transition. There’d be some crossover if Carroll departed. I do trust him to go out and put together a strong staff. I also think it helps that he’s worked with Mike McCarthy, who openly admitted he reinvented himself after leaving Green Bay. Quinn has supposedly also spent time preparing for his next go at being a Head Coach.

I’d expect Quinn to be modern in his thinking, aggressive and rejuvenated. Unlike the other candidates, he’s been there and done it and nothing will surprise him. He’s already made mistakes to learn from.

His Dallas defense is highly productive and currently ranked sixth per DVOA (having finished fourth in the previous two seasons). He wouldn’t get to bring Micah Parsons with him sadly but at least he’d be coming from a team that has invested in the trenches and at cornerback, saving money at linebacker and safety.

Potential downside: He’d have to get the offensive coordinator hire right and even if he did, there’s always a chance that person leaves and then things unravel again.

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Albert Breer speculates on possible Pete Carroll retirement

Well, this is interesting.

Albert Breer from was asked in his latest mailbag whether Pete Carroll will be coaching the Seahawks in 2024.

Here’s his response in full:

I’d say I’m less sure of it than I have been in recent years. Going into this year, it sure looked like the Seahawks were creeping closer toward having the kind of core group of players they did in Carroll’s early years, with a very solid 2022 draft class coming back and the ’23 class bursting with promise.

Now they’re 6–7 heading into a matchup against the NFC champion Eagles, who are coming off consecutive losses. So while Seattle remains loaded with young talent, it’s fair to ask how far away they might be from a championship and where they stand at quarterback after this year. Because, while coming into this year I thought that infusion of young talent might keep Carroll around for a while, if the coach doesn’t think he’s that close, it could alter his decision on returning for next season (during which he’ll turn 73).

And the idea that Seattle would try to get Cowboys DC Dan Quinn (who was Seattle’s DC for its two Super Bowl trips a decade ago) if Carroll were to retire has been floated around a little. Which … the Seahawks could do a lot worse than that, if this were to be it.

Interestingly, Puck & Jim on KJR played a segment from Breer discussing this on their radio show earlier. Afterwards, Puck revealed that Mike Garafolo had spoken to him recently and suggested the same thing about Carroll. You can hear it by clicking here and fast-forwarding to 14:30. You can also hear from Garafolo on the same show here:

“I’m picking up what Breer’s putting down. The Seattle/Dallas game is where I was really hearing a lot of that, ‘don’t be surprised if this all falls into place’. I believe that some people think this could be the end for sure, depending on how this finishes up down the stretch.”

Back to Breer’s article and let’s start with the retirement talk. It’s interesting that this is at least being discussed by a reporter of Breer’s status. It’s still wholly speculative. There’s no reporting here, just thoughts. But we haven’t had anything like this since the end of the 2017 season when Jay Glazer suggested Carroll was considering retiring.

It’s worth noting that back in 2017, things were imploding somewhat. Weeks after that season ended, players like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett were cut. A major re-set took place, with two new coordinators. If the Seahawks are facing something similar in a month’s time, it’s worth considering whether Carroll — now six years older — still has the appetite to go through it all again. Especially if he was thinking of walking in 2017.

Carroll can’t look at the current product on the field and think the Seahawks are close. They’re a long way off. The games against San Francisco brutally exposed that. If the decision is based around a feeling that a lot of work is still required, that could lend weight to Breer’s speculation.

We also need to think about the trade for Leonard Williams. When the Seahawks were in first place, making that trade, it was clearly an attempt to take ownership of the division. To go 1-5 since that move, with two hefty defeats against San Francisco thrown into the mix, is a stark reminder of how far behind Seattle is. The aggressive nature of the trade could also be indicative of a coach who was in a rush to win.

I think Carroll has continued not for the sake of it but because he genuinely felt like success was forthcoming. In 2017, he cracked on and why not? Russell Wilson was about to enter his peak years. There’s nothing like that now. Instead there’s K.J. Wright going on the radio and suggesting the players ‘don’t give a damn’ about what Carroll’s saying while also wondering if the coach is equally a bit sick of certain players on the roster. Meanwhile, we can all see a team with no identity and serious question marks at key positions.

You can’t ignore all of this stuff and there’s a definite ‘end game’ feel to what we’re witnessing. John Middlekauff and Colin Cowherd talked about ‘the end’ a few days ago. Now we have this from Breer. It’ll only grow if the Seahawks lose a fifth game in a row on Monday night.

Let’s finish with the final paragraph and the suggestion by Breer that people within the league are at least discussing the possibility of Carroll departing and Dan Quinn replacing him.

If you’d have said any time over the last two years, put money on someone to replace Carroll, I would’ve put it on Quinn. They are clearly very close. Carroll talks glowingly about Quinn. At the various pro-days this year, the pair were often spotted in conversation. There’s a big connection there.

It’d be very easy to see Quinn as a continuity candidate, carrying some of the Carroll DNA forwards while putting his own slant on things.

He’s also been a Head Coach, has helped lead a team to the Super Bowl and nothing will surprise him in the top job. It’d be a safe appointment.

For all of these reasons, it’d be an easy sell to fans. With Head Coaching appointments you often try to ‘win the press conference’ as owners/decision makers. This would be a way to do that and even those not keen on the move would likely give Quinn a chance.

His defenses in Dallas have succeeded. They’re currently sixth in the league per DVOA and in 2022 and 2021 they finished fourth. He has consistently produced a top-performing unit.

Clearly Quinn has benefited from the presence of Micah Parsons — a thoroughly unique playmaker who fits the bill of ‘generational talent’. He wouldn’t be coming to Seattle with Quinn, obviously.

This is a point people uneasy with the appointment will make.

For the sake of balance, it’s worth noting that many other players are performing well under Quinn’s leadership. DaRon Bland is setting records for interceptions and has a 90.5 PFF grade as a former fifth round pick. Malik Hooker is grading as a top-10 safety and Stephon Gilmore has returned to form at cornerback. Markquese Bell is PFF’s seventh ranked linebacker and Osa Odighizuwa is their fifth ranked interior defensive lineman. DeMarcus Lawrence has a 90.3 grade and several other defenders are grading well too.

Maybe Parsons is just so good that everyone else jumps up a level? Or maybe Quinn has actually done a really good job developing and maxing out Parsons with creative scheming, while elevating a number of other players (young and old)?

Another criticism might be that Quinn’s Atlanta success was heavily influenced by Kyle Shanahan’s presence as offensive coordinator. When he departed for San Francisco, things fell apart somewhat. After the pair went 8-8 together in 2015, they finished 11-5 the following year and reached a Super Bowl they should’ve won. Without Shanahan, Quinn went 10-6, 7-9, 7-9 and 0-5 before being fired.

Shanahan turned Matt Ryan into the league MVP. Steve Sarkisian replaced him for two years, then Dirk Koetter took over. They never reached anywhere near the 2016 heights.

This is the problem with any defensive hire as a Head Coach. The league is so heavily weighted to offense now that unless you get the play-caller/quarterback right, you immediately put yourself on the back foot. DeMeco Ryans is an example of how it works with Bobby Slowik and C.J. Stroud. Dennis Allen, with Pete Carmichael Jr and Derek Carr, is an example of it not working.

The other problem is that when you have any success on offense, you’re likely to lose your offensive coordinator as Quinn did in 2016. It’s why so many teams now prefer to go the offensive route. You need your play-caller and QB to be tight. You need your offensive game-plan to be consistently strong. You won’t lose your play-caller or system to another team if the Head Coach is also the man leading the offense.

Quinn has presumably spent considerable time pondering who he’d like to hire if he gets another chance to be a Head Coach. It could be someone like Kellen Moore — who’s not guaranteed to stay with the Chargers if Brandon Staley is fired. It could be an up-and-comer on the Dallas staff, such as Scott Tolzien. It could be someone we wouldn’t expect. Preferably it would be someone with the sufficient chops to lead this team and potentially develop a young quarterback, with it feeling increasingly inevitable that they’re going to draft a QB. If Carroll retires, whoever the new Head Coach is has to — as an absolute priority — find a way to maximise the weapons Seattle has on offense with cultured scheming, misdirection and far more consistency.

I wouldn’t hate a Quinn hire, even if I’d prefer the team to somehow land the next great offensive mind. This isn’t a fantastic coaching cycle in 2024. There are offensive-minded candidates but some aren’t calling plays because they work behind offensive Head Coaches. Some are young, raw and would be unpredictable. There aren’t many big name options. The 49ers don’t have an offensive coordinator to poach (they simply have Chris Foerster operating the running game and O-line and Klint Kubiak acts as a passing game specialist) while McVay’s coordinator is Mike LaFleur who is respected but recently struggled with the Jets.

With Quinn, at least we know he’s been there and got the T-shirt. He’ll have hopefully learned from his time in Atlanta. There’s something to be said for that. He’s likeable, uncontroversial and it’d feel like a solid hire.

I can also well imagine Carroll’s approval being part of any potential departure, too. And as noted, he and Quinn are close.

That might be my least likeable thing about it though. There needs to be a proper clean break with new messaging and a new staff. It can’t just be Carroll’s staff with Dan Quinn and a few others. The Seahawks can’t cling to the old glory days with the hope that Quinn can effectively be a young Carroll. If they did end up with Quinn, you’d hope he’d be given a big say in putting together a new staff with a focus on a fresh start and a clean break.

He would also have to get the offensive coordinator position right.

I appreciate this is all still very much in the ‘need to see it to believe it’ stage but when you listen on the radio these days, both KJR and 710 are talking about Carroll’s future. Breer’s talking about it. Middlekauff and Cowherd are talking about it. Garafolo is talking about it.

Without a serious upturn in results in the last four games, maybe change is around the corner after all?

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