The only thing that matters is whether you’re moving in the right direction. The Seahawks aren’t — and that’s why this week, a change of Head Coach is required.
In an alternative universe you could look at back-to-back 9-8 seasons, immediately after trading Russell Wilson, and suggest it’s not altogether surprising. If you were seeing encouraging performances, a blossoming team and a pathway to contention — you could easily make a case for continuing onwards.
This isn’t the case with the Seahawks.
What possible reasons are there to be optimistic after the 2023 season?
They spent all last off-season talking about fixing the run defense. It ended up being statistically worse this year and they don’t seem to have any idea how to fix it. It’s fundamental to your success, in the regular season and the post-season, to at least offer some resistance against the run. With the season on the line, the Seahawks gave up 570 rushing yards in their last three games. So much of Pete Carroll’s preferred identity is concentrated on running the ball well and defending the run. The Seahawks can’t do either well.
Tackling is abysmal and the defense is a shambles. This is despite investing so much money and picks in the unit. A quick recap — three second round picks on edge rushers, a huge free agent splurge on Dre’Mont Jones, bringing back Jarran Reed and Bobby Wagner, using a second round pick to rent Leonard Williams for 10 games, a first round pick on a linebacker, a top-five pick on a cornerback, huge contracts for two safeties and the Jamal Adams trade. To spend all this, aggressively, and produce a defense as bad as this is incredible. It’s been years since the Seahawks had a good defense and despite two resets, they’re still bad and are now facing a mini-reset, if not a third full reset of the unit.
Offensively they have an arsenal of tantalising weapons and a very capable veteran quarterback. Yet as a unit they’ve gone through stretches in games where the offense has just completely stalled. Look at the start of the second half today. The route concepts are maddening at times. They’ve no idea how to make the most of their use of two second round picks on two running backs (with Carroll bemoaning last week they aren’t physical tone-setters like Najee Harris and Derrick Henry). Unlike other teams, they don’t seem to know how to maximise their best weapons or feature tight ends in a modern passing attack.
The Seahawks were two horrible missed Matt Prater field goals away from going 1-5 in the NFC West. They are an absolute mile away from the San Francisco 49ers. Most teams are. Yet this was supposed to be the year where the gap at least closed, even a little. It almost feels further away than ever. And who’d bet against the Rams and Sean McVay continuing to dominate Carroll’s Seahawks, with the upstart team from Los Angeles turning what should’ve been a rebuilding season into a 10-7 playoff tilt with legitimate reasons for optimism in the post-season.
They were soft against Pittsburgh, at home, in a must-win game. They’ve been undisciplined in multiple games. They were battered by the good teams they faced and played-down to several weaker opponents. They continue to be pushed around in the trenches too often. When’s the last time you thought the Seahawks won a game because the coaches ‘out-coached’ the other sideline?
What can you cling to tonight? What gives you hope for next year?
At least 12 months ago it was the rise of Geno Smith, an unexpected playoff run, a really entertaining start to the season and a treasure trove of picks coming up courtesy of the Russell Wilson trade.
All of that energy has now gone. The team was unsatisfying to watch in 2023. They’ve done nothing to move things forward despite a 2023 draft class most people approved of while making key moves in free agency.
They not only don’t have a nice collection of picks this year, they’ve already given away their second rounder. Meanwhile according to Over the Cap, they’re $9.3m in debt for the 2024 season when it comes to effective cap space. They need to create money just to be able to spend anything this off-season.
They can’t just bring everyone back for more of the same.
They’ve gone 7-10, 9-8 and 9-8 in the last three seasons, with one playoff appearance. They’ve got one playoff win in seven years, against the Eagles and a 40-year-old backup quarterback. Their only other playoff wins since the 2014 Super Bowl are the Blair Walsh missed-kick game and a victory at home against the Lions.
Pete Carroll, in his seasons without Russell Wilson, has gone 33-36 (including playoffs).
This has just come to a natural end.
The Seahawks needs a complete fresh start. It’s time to celebrate Carroll’s time in Seattle, which has been glorious for many reasons that we don’t get to talk about enough because of the way it’s ending. A polite, mutual parting of ways allowing everyone to salute the man who made history in Seattle is only right and proper.
A new set of eyes is needed on the roster. A new voice, with new ideas is required to shift things into a different direction. That would give fans the hope that is currently lacking. Giving the new coach a chance, seeing what he can achieve — that’s all the Seahawks have to offer right now.
After 14 years it’s time for someone new to come in and have their chance to lead this franchise.
With Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reporting earlier today that Carroll’s contract only has one guaranteed year remaining, with an option for 2025, it changes the complexion of the situation completely. It’s far less costly to part with Carroll, if that is necessary.
It’s not just a financial thing though. If the team was close, you can well imagine Carroll coming back for another year to give it one last shot. He cannot possibly look at the way his team is performing and think one off-season will have the Seahawks in contention.
Big changes are required. They might need to cut several players and replace them on the cheap. They’re going to have to go through some form of transition because the cap situation dictates that. The likelihood is that won’t take one off-season.
Carroll staying just delays things. Presumably they’d be trying to band-aid roster gaps if he stays — or worse they’d make a load of aggressive moves and handcuff a new coach in 12 months if things don’t work out (and they rarely do when you chase glory when it’s not actually that close).
Right now, with the way things are trending, Carroll is more likely to do harm to his legacy by carrying on.
It’s the ideal time to bow-out. The task is too big for a coach facing a lame-duck season. A new head honcho is required to oversee the changes and shape things his way.
I think Carroll understands this. His body language felt quite telling during the Arizona game. He seemed quite relaxed at the start, more relaxed than he has been in recent weeks. He gave off a ‘I’m going to enjoy this’ vibe. At the end he almost seemed quite emotional. I appreciate I might be reading into it — but it is what I thought watching the broadcast.
I did wonder too, whether the Leonard Williams trade — given how aggressive it was — might’ve been one last big push for Carroll to get over the top. Seattle made that deal with the New York Giants when they were 5-2 and in first place. Even then, was this viewed as the last rodeo? Go all-in to get the job done, with light emerging in the NFC tunnel, in Pete’s final year? I can’t help but be drawn to that thought.
People have picked up on his comments after the game. He was asked if he expects to be back next season and he replied, “at this point I do.”
As soon as I read that quote, I thought of the language Carroll used right before the Russell Wilson trade. He was asked about the possibility of dealing Wilson and said they had “no intention” of parting with him. Shortly after, he was gone.
“At this point I do (expect to be back)” feels a lot like having “no intention” of a Wilson trade. You’re hedging your bets while not giving the media any fuel to burn. I guess we’ll see if that comparison is accurate in the coming days.
The fact Carroll is out of contract after the 2024 season also means it makes no sense to just change both coordinators. Why would you do that if there’s a strong chance the Head Coach is leaving in a year? Carroll has appointed two offensive coordinators and three defensive coordinators since their last deep playoff run. He’s had ample opportunity to get this right and if Clint Hurtt and/or Shane Waldron need replacing — that’s another reason why the man who appointed them needs to be questioned.
People have often wondered how Jody Allen would approach a situation like this. Many have suggested she’d be inactive. On the contrary, Allen (who is well supported by Bert Kolde) has been the opposite of inactive.
Allen gave the green light for the Wilson trade — a huge, franchise-changing move. As owner of the Portland Trailblazers, she also parted ways with long-time coach Terry Stotts in 2021 after the Blazers’ fourth first-round playoff exit in five years. He’d been with the team since 2012.
These are not the actions of someone sitting on their hands. Although Carroll’s standing in Seattle is significantly different to Stotts’ in Portland, the situations on the field and court are similar.
Based on the direction of the team, the performance on the field, the contract situation, the need for structural change to the roster and the need either this year or in the near future to draft a quarterback, now is the ideal time to make a change.
Personally I would like to see a coach come in who has shown he can lead a unit. I’m not particularly interested in a coordinator who plays second fiddle to an offensive/defensive leader at Head Coach. I want someone who has controlled one side of the ball and done an outstanding job.
Ben Johnson the Lions offensive coordinator has produced a top-five offense (per DVOA) without an elite quarterback. Detroit’s roster feels similar to Seattle’s. He has succeeded with Jared Goff and would take on a similar veteran starter in Geno Smith. In two seasons, Johnson has got excellent production out of a duel-threat at running back. He’s shown he can feature his best weapons in the passing game, including at tight end. Basically, he’s done a lot of things we want to see in Seattle.
He could come in and be tasked with emulating his success in Detroit with the Seahawks’ offensive talent. Pair him with an experienced defensive coordinator and that feels like a good way to begin a new era. The Lions have just enjoyed a 12-5 season and there’s no reason why the Seahawks can’t have similar success, albeit in a tougher division than the NFC North.
If the Seahawks want a defensive-minded Head Coach, then go and get Mike McDonald in Baltimore. He inherited the 28th best defense per DVOA, improved their ranking to #8 last season and they are #1 this year. He’s achieved all of this despite not having a Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons or Aaron Donald-level pass rusher. McDonald has elevated the performance of players like Jadeveon Clowney, turned Justin Madubuike into a star, got every drop out of his secondary talent and they play tough, physical and fast.
If Seattle believes improving their own porous, shambolic defense is the key going forward — McDonald has shown he can do that in Baltimore without relying on elite blue-chip talent. Furthermore, he coached a defense that recently beat San Francisco in their own stadium. He made life very difficult for Kyle Shanahan. Imagine that.
They are the two candidates I’m mostly focused on. You can also make a case for Bob Slowik the Texans offensive coordinator. He’s done an excellent job with C.J. Stroud, which could be helpful if you intend to draft a quarterback early. He’s also enticing given he comes from the same Washington staff that once had Shanahan, McVay and Matt LaFleur working together.
If Carroll does depart, though, I fully expect Dan Quinn to get the job.
I have mixed views on this. Firstly, I do think it’s a benefit having been a Head Coach before. You know what to expect and can learn from past mistakes. I think he’ll do a good job putting a staff together. Al Harris is a dude and it’d be good to see him join Quinn as defensive coordinator. I think it’ll be a huge attraction for offensive coordinators to come and work with Quinn, because they’ll get to own the offense and inherit a talented bunch of weapons.
On the other hand, I’m hesitant to appoint someone who could be viewed as a ‘continuity candidate’. The Seahawks feel like they need a complete fresh start, with someone willing to make tough decisions. It can’t just be Carroll without Carroll. Quinn has also benefited greatly in Dallas due to the presence of Parsons, a generational defensive talent. He also benefitted from the LOB before taking the Falcons job — and the performance of his defense’s in Atlanta without star talent left a lot to be desired. They were average at best.
It’s felt on the cards, though, ever since Quinn returned to the league and rebuilt his image, that a return to Seattle would happen one day. I remember watching the quarterback pro-days a year ago, seeing Carroll and Quinn together all the time. They’re clearly close. The Seahawks have had contingency plans in place for a while, as Rapoport and Pelissero reported. Ed Werner, who is connected in Dallas, was touting it on Sunday. The only stumbling block could be Jerry Jones’ desire to retain Quinn, which could even mean at the expense of Mike McCarthy — according to an article from Adam Schefter on Saturday.
Even though I expect Quinn to replace Carroll if he leaves, I hope the Seahawks will hold a series of legit interviews and will allow themselves to be swayed.
Timing isn’t a big issue and nothing has to happen immediately. You can’t interview coaches in the playoffs until after the divisional round, per new rules for this year. If the Seahawks wanted to speak to Johnson, McDonald, Slowik or Quinn — they’d have to wait two weeks. That’s ample time to hold meetings without any rush and they can talk through what happens next for the franchise.
I hope in the coming days I’m writing an article reflecting on all that was good about the Carroll era. What a ride it was during the LOB days. Never to be matched. Nothing lasts forever though and the Seahawks are not going to win a Super Bowl next year with Carroll before his contract ends.
They need to put themselves on a longer-term plan, instigate changes to the roster and improve performance to try and position themselves for a serious run in the future.
It’s time. If this was the final game, I’m not going to spend any time worrying about a drop from 14th overall to 16th overall in the draft. It was worth it to let a great coach end on a victorious note.
If you missed our post-game live stream, check it out here: