I had a tweet exchange with Joe Fann yesterday and it got me thinking…
Can build an argument for it being best for all concerned
— Rob Staton (@robstaton) December 16, 2022
I hadn’t really considered the possibility of Pete Carroll walking away at the end of the season. Admittedly there’s a distinct possibility he will carry on.
The old saying is, though, that there’s no smoke without fire. And there’s a little bit of smoke blowing through the air at the moment.
Benjamin Allbright tweeted a list of potential teams looking for a new Head Coach earlier this week. He had the Seahawks on that list. When he was challenged on it, he mentioned a ‘possible retirement’.
Today he went a step further, declaring that Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon could end up being Seattle’s ‘top name’ to replace Carroll if he does indeed depart.
Admittedly it’s all speculation at this point but I don’t think it’s as unlikely as some people believe.
For starters, let’s refer back to everything we talked about yesterday. Carroll has struggled for years to establish his core philosophy in Seattle. The defense has been consistently poor, the running game stalls as soon as the latest running back injury happens and they’ve relied too much on the quarterback over the last few seasons, whether that’s Russell Wilson or Geno Smith.
At what point do you admit defeat and hand over the keys?
People like to paint Carroll as a stubborn coaching lifer who will see out his current contract no matter what. That could prove to be the case. Yet it’s often forgotten that five years ago, leading NFL insider Jay Glazer reported that Carroll was considering retirement at the end of the 2017 season — before his contract was due to expire. He then signed an extension in December 2018, during a largely positive season that had the Seahawks trending in the right direction — both in terms of his philosophy and results (wins vs Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, for example).
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility he’s in a similar head-space now, contemplating whether to carry on. He might decide to return once again, just as he did in 2017. Yet if he is thinking of walking, this would be a good time.
Carroll has nothing left to prove. His status within football history is secure. He will always be known as a Seahawks legend and there’s something to be said for walking before you’re pushed.
It’s simply not realistic to just keep on going in the hope that you’ll win a Super Bowl to have a fairytale ending. You’ve got to have a team capable of writing that story. The Seahawks are a long way off and Carroll is 72 next year.
If he goes at the end of the year he’ll do so as a celebrated, much-loved figure in Seattle sports. He’ll be able to recharge and consider if he wants to coach again. If not, there are so many areas where Carroll’s skills as a motivator, culture-builder and leader would be valued.
The Seahawks could launch a fresh start with a haul of picks to help the new Head Coach create a new vision. It would help pave the way for a smoother transition than you’d typically expect when a long-standing coach departs.
If Carroll remains and they use the picks to build around the Clint Hurtt and Sean Desai-influenced defense, which is struggling badly, what happens if the results stay the same? Not only would the team be in a bad place but it’d be a horrible situation for a new Head Coach to inherit in the future. It could lead to another major rebuild being required down the line, without the benefit of a Wilson trade to pad out your stock.
I accept that this all might be as far from Carroll’s mind as anything. He might see the picks as simply a great opportunity to build a new defense. He might even be able to pull it off. As I said though, there’s no smoke without fire. Those tweets from Allbright describe a situation where some people in the league think Carroll isn’t necessarily of the mindset that he’s definitely coming back.
I do think there are reasons to think a change is needed. Carroll has unmatched talent as a motivator and leader but too many of the other things simply haven’t been good enough for too long.
He hasn’t been able to properly deliver his vision for this team for a long time. He hasn’t been able to create a proper defense for years and the play over the last couple of seasons in particular is a major cause for concern. The Seahawks are not a good home team (23-16 since 2018 and 16-15 at Lumen Field over the same period with fans in the stadium). Their playoff “success” since the Super Bowl loss to New England is merely three wins — a fluky Blair Walsh-inspired victory in Minnesota, a win against the Lions and a closer-than-it-should’ve-been win at Philadelphia who had to play a backup quarterback in his 40’s.
There hasn’t been an obvious sign of progress for a long time now. When one threatened to emerge this season in the form of a four-game winning streak, the next five games blasted that hope into the stratosphere with some of the worst defensive and complementary football we’ve seen — the two things that are supposed to be Carroll’s bread and butter.
Yes, the team is rebuilding. Yes, there have been positives this season — namely the play of Geno Smith and performances of certain rookies. I’m not sure we’ll ever see a great Carroll defense again though. I’m not sure we’ll ever see peak-Carroll football. It’s been too long now. The attempts to bring it back have failed.
Even in a rebuilding year, the defense and running game haven’t been consistently good enough. And let’s not pretend like the defensive unit they’re currently fielding hasn’t seen major investment in terms of picks and money over the last few years. The fact it isn’t good enough is an indictment of their spending.
A coaching change might not work out and I appreciate people will challenge why anyone would hope for that. What’s the alternative though? To never have anyone other than Carroll coach the team simply due to fear that the next guy might be no good?
There are risks with any coaching appointment. I would argue persevering with a coach who hasn’t been able to deliver his vision, his philosophy, a good defense or post-season success for multiple years is just as much of a risk as giving a new man an opportunity to come in and take this team to another level.
People will talk about experience and yet what was Carroll’s experience, with the Jets and Patriots, before he came to Seattle and made a success of it?
If you are minded to hope for change, what are you actually saying? That you want a change now — when the new coach gets to use a bunch of great picks to shape his team — rather than in 2025 when Carroll’s contract runs out and he’s 74-years-old and potentially unlikely to sign another? Are three more years of Carroll really that pivotal? Are they that likely to win a Super Bowl by 2025 or is this a longer term build anyway?
There’s one other thing I want to speculate on.
Why did in-demand Sean Desai take a job in Seattle as an associate Head Coach? Why, after the big meeting with Jody Allen that was downplayed by the media, did Ken Norton Jr lose his job and suddenly we see a move towards appointing Vic Fangio protégés with a defensive scheme change?
It felt like Carroll was ceding some control but what if it was more than that? Is it that out of the question that the new defensive plan and the staff appointments were with a view to the future? A view where Carroll’s scheme and ideas would be less prevalent because he wouldn’t necessarily be here much longer?
Was it part of a succession plan that could be brought into action within the next 1-3 years?
Maybe it’s 2+2=5 but Carroll hasn’t been a big advocate of bringing in outsiders to his coaching staff over the years. Neither has he really wavered on scheme — yet here he was, doing just that.
Or perhaps he was just told to do something different? Or actively suggested it to improve his standing in a meeting that felt bigger than it was reported, given what followed (coaching changes & the Wilson trade).
Again, this is a lot of speculative talk on my behalf. It does feel like a transition has begun though. I think John Schneider gained greater control after the meeting with Allen, for example. It would’ve been great to be a fly on the wall there, to find out exactly what was said and by whom.
I don’t really like writing about this subject because it’s a hot-button topic that makes people angry. There are plenty of Seahawks fans who don’t know what life is like without Pete Carroll. We’re coming up to 13 years since he was appointed. People have grown up with Carroll as Head Coach of the Seahawks and don’t even remember Jim Mora Jr or Mike Holmgren, let alone anyone else.
I think we’d do ourselves a disservice though, as a group of passionate Seahawks followers, to not at least consider possibilities.
People used to mock any suggestion that Russell Wilson would be traded. That continued right up to the point the deal with Denver was announced.
My suggestion would be don’t rule anything out. Do I think Carroll will depart? I wouldn’t bet any money on it. I do think it’s probably more of a possibility than some people think, however.
The next four games could have a big impact on what happens next.
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