Seahawks fans are starting to think long term, with the team at 2-3 and facing the prospect of watching Geno Smith at quarterback for the next month.
Not only that, the defense is struggling (again). The running game appears shot (again). Seattle’s O-line is grading at 68.5, 55.2, 53.7, 65.5 and 70.8 as a quintet (according to PFF, again).
There’s not a lot to be optimistic about.
You might say forming a plan for 2022 at this stage is premature. I don’t see any reason to wait.
Plenty of people said it was premature, too, to raise serious concerns about the team ahead of the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Or to talk about the likelihood of a big Russell Wilson trade saga last December. Or to critically analyse the Jamal Adams trade and discuss whether they should’ve moved on this year.
There’s no reason to delay this conversation. We can all see big changes are inevitable. It’s the make-up of those changes that will shape Seattle’s next chapter.
I think Pete Carroll will retire at the end of the season. Or maybe he’ll return to USC. The timing of this article in the LA Times is… curious. I’m not sure why Carroll would start talking about USC now, amid the biggest crisis of his reign in Seattle. It feels like he’s maybe putting out the feelers, seeing if there’s interest. It might suit him to return to California for one final hurrah, rather than retire or go into another saga with the franchise quarterback.
I’m not sure what the future holds for John Schneider. He may or may not remain in his position. It may or may not be his choice. After seriously botching this reset with the incredible misuse of resources, a clean sweep might be necessary.
I appreciate the ownership structure as it is would probably prefer not to initiate major changes. They might have no choice, depending on what Carroll and Schneider decide. And we have no evidence either way to assume how they’ll act about anything.
A lot of people think they’ll be dormant. I’ve voiced that assumption myself. This viewpoint is based on a Carroll contract extension dished out a year ago, amid reports of a five-year plan to potentially sell the team.
A lot has changed since Carroll’s deal was announced. They were 6-1 and heading to Buffalo. Since then there’s been a horrible playoff exit, a quarterback trade saga and a very difficult start to the 2021 season. There’s the real prospect of a first losing season in a decade.
If Russell Wilson demands to leave in the off-season, for example, short of a major restructure of the organisation — they’ll have no choice but to act one way or another. Either to back Carroll or go in a different Wilson-inspired direction.
It’s uncomfortable not knowing how ownership would handle this — or more specifically, who would handle this. Yet even the most inactive owners — Mike Brown for example — are forced into action eventually.
I’ll also say what I said a year ago. I do think there’s a scenario where keeping Carroll works too. But it involves him taking on a figurehead role where he hands the keys to the offense to an offensive coordinator and the keys to the defense to a defensive coordinator. Their schemes, their ideas, their execution.
I don’t think Carroll is capable of doing what Nick Saban has done in Alabama. Saban is still very much in charge but he trusts all-star coordinators. I think Carroll will always be a meddler. He’ll always think his way is the only way. The fact Seattle gave him the opportunity to indulge with complete control is why he’s even here in the first place.
Carroll once said, “It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.” It’s a quote that stuck with me. I wish he would take his own advice and adjust to being a Head Coach who creates culture and leadership, while letting other people handle the fine details of running an offense, defense and special teams.
It’s frustrating why he hasn’t opted to do that because I do think he still has a lot to offer the Seahawks. Not, however, while he persists with people like Ken Norton Jr running the defense. They look ramshackle and disorganised. They repeat mistakes.
Norton Jr is under-qualified for the role. He has no track record as a coordinator other than consistent failure. He’s there because he’s Carroll’s man. The entire coaching staff is filled with them — including family members and the recent return of Carl ‘Tater’ Smith.
Carroll doubled down on control when things went wrong in 2017. The only way to move forward now, I think, is to do the opposite.
I don’t think Carroll can change. That’s why I think the Seahawks have to.
I also think this is a weary looking franchise. The main players — Carroll, Schneider, Wilson and others — just seem spent. You could say the Carroll project has gone stale, or that perhaps it’s just coming to a natural conclusion with everyone involved needing a fresh start.
Change, one way or another, feels inevitable. This is how I would go about trying to rejuvenate the Seahawks for 2022.
1. A clean sweep of the organisation, rallying behind Russell Wilson
On Sunday I sat and watched Matt Ryan face-off against Zach Wilson. It dawned on me how difficult it’ll be for the Seahawks to ever replace Russell Wilson.
It felt like I was watching two different scenarios. The ageing, past-his-best veteran who may, one day, be available via trade or on the open-market as a short-term solution. Or the young rookie, drafted after one dynamic season at BYU.
Neither felt appealing. Wilson was erratic and doesn’t look ready. Ryan’s arm strength looked shot and while his numbers were good, it should be noted who he was playing against.
Seahawks fans could do worse than watch a live game like this. Yes, Russell Wilson has his flaws. He is not the perfect quarterback and there are aspects to his game that may always be frustrating (the sacks, the lack of taking what’s on offer).
Yet at the same time, there’s a reason why he’s a sure-fire future Hall-of-Famer. His quality is in serious danger of being overlooked.
I appreciate how challenging it is to assess Wilson currently. I don’t think he played particularly well prior to the injury. The fact the offense had about -8 yards until late in the first half against San Francisco is incredible really.
I sense the thing people are most looking forward to against Pittsburgh is to see if Geno Smith can throw a competent screen pass, feature the tight ends and check things down. Simple things many perceive to be an issue for Wilson.
Yet at the same time, there are a whole bunch of stats that also need to be acknowledged.
Wilson has a 10/1 TD/INT ratio. He’s leading the league in passer rating. His PFF grade (90.3) is second only to Tom Brady. He’s done all this without any help in the running game, he’s playing behind a poorly performing O-line and the defense is giving up record breaking yardage.
Fans and media alike will come to their own conclusions and there might not be a definitive right answer. I fear this is set to be a divisive debate for the next few months, splitting everyone into ‘teams’ as we so often see on Seahawks Twitter.
My own personal conclusion is this. The fact that Wilson can statistically be so impressive yet we all feel like he can be better is indicative of who and what he is as a player. Even when he’s not at his best, he produces at a level so many other fanbases crave.
If you are able to supply the supporting cast required to be competitive — I believe he can lead this team to glory.
I’m a big believer that all quarterbacks need to be complemented. Brady, last season, had everything. Tampa Bay completed the circle Carroll so often talks about.
Green Bay, who they beat in the NFC Championship game, haven’t got back to the Super Bowl due to confusing coaching decisions, botched special teams play and a weak defense. They haven’t completed the circle and that’s prevented Aaron Rodgers, genius that he is, from returning to the Super Bowl.
Patrick Mahomes suddenly looks human when he’s asked to play behind a shocking O-line in the Super Bowl or try and prop up the worst defense in the league.
Moving on from Wilson — particularly with a rancid looking 2022 quarterback class — is not the answer. I think setting up the foundations to win with him as the focal point is preferable.
I worry that moving on from him puts you back in a situation where you’re looking for an Andy Dalton type to play quarterback. Or you’re taking a chance on a rookie who’s out of his depth. And once you get into the rat race of searching at that position — it can be very hard to get out of it.
I’ve watched all of the big name quarterbacks in college football and it’s concerning how dry the well is currently. Even with a player like Desmond Ridder — who has elevated his Cincinnati team and caught the eye — there’s a degree of suspicion as to whether he’s truly a next level prospect or just a college dynamo.
Therefore, I think priority #1 this off-season should be to give Wilson’s vision for the Seahawks a shot. We heard from Greg Olsen (see below) that he feels confined by Carroll’s philosophy and simply doesn’t believe in it anymore:
This is the crux of the matter here. I don’t think Wilson wants to leave Seattle at all. Legacy is important to Wilson and there’s something special about playing for one team. This is simply a case of Wilson feeling like Carroll’s way is holding him back. And he’s reached a point in his career where he thinks a different approach is necessary to get to where he wants to go — which is back to the Super Bowl.
Before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, let’s at least give Wilson’s approach a try. That means doubling down with a new Head Coach who shares his vision. I’d go as far as to suggest he should be included in the interview process.
You run the risk of empowering him too much. That, to me, still seems like a risk worth taking. The Packers moved on from Mike McCarthy and immediately had back-to-back 13-3 seasons and made the NFC Championship game twice. That was all despite Aaron Rodgers clashing with management and having a somewhat frosty relationship with Matt LaFleur.
For me, an ideal scenario would be to learn from the Packers. Take a similar approach but do it better — ensuring Wilson is on board and invested, rather than creating avoidable drama.
This may also mean a new GM. Why? I’ve speculated that Schneider might’ve been the one person willing to deal Wilson last off-season. After all, he reportedly travelled to North Dakota State and had a meeting with Chicago’s GM Ryan Pace to discuss a deal. He then presented an offer to Carroll, who reportedly turned it down.
I doubt Schneider would do that if he was against making a move. I sense a weariness in dealing with Mark Rodgers, as has been speculated by many over the years. I think this has generally created a weariness among Carroll and Wilson too. Everyone just seems a bit tired of being together.
And let’s not forget how often Schneider visited the top-QB pro-days in 2018 — and reportedly had a tentative conversation with the Browns about trading Wilson for the #1 pick that year (reportedly with Josh Allen as the target replacement).
I do wonder what the Schneider/Wilson relationship is these days. If the Seahawks empower Wilson this off-season I’m not convinced Schneider will be the key decision maker implementing the new plan.
Given the bleak outlook for quarterbacks in college, I’m not sure the Seahawks have much choice but to go all-in on making it attractive for Wilson to want to stay in Seattle. I’ve read a lot about moving on, regaining stock and going through what would be akin to an expansion level rebuild due to the lack of true long-term blue chip players on the roster.
To me that might sound exciting and intriguing but it also feels like a plan that is harder to execute and is more likely to bury this team over many years.
After all, look at the first round picks Miami have had recently. Are they any better for it? What about the Rams when they traded away the rights to Robert Griffin III?
Unless the Seahawks wish to play musical chairs with another team, essentially taking what they can get for Wilson and going all-in on a Deshaun Watson type. That’s a plan I suppose. It would also be controversial and lined with risk.
I think if there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the last 18 months it’s this — it’s more difficult to replace a quarterback than a coach. Ask the Patriots about that. It’s time for the Seahawks to heed that warning.
2. Bring in a dynamic, offensive-minded Head Coach
If the second coming of Brandon Staley is available, then that would be great. I sense, however, that Staley is a rare find. I remember watching his initial press conference with the Chargers and was blown away by his performance. The decision makers in LA have played a blinder identifying Staley and Justin Herbert as their future.
Maybe the Seahawks should tap into their braintrust by appointing someone from within their front office?
Assuming they can’t find a Staley, I think it’s time to go and get a coach who can work with Wilson to deliver the kind of partnership we’re seeing across the league. A brilliant offensive, creative mind and a franchise quarterback.
The two names that we’ve talked about the most are Joe Brady and Brian Darboll.
Brady has achieved a lot in a short space of time. He instigated a National Championship for LSU. Granted, he coached an incredibly talented offense. They had Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Clyde Edwards-Helaire — plus a very capable offensive line.
LSU had NFL talent throughout their roster.
Even so, let’s not ignore Burrow’s development working with Brady. He transferred from a backup gig at Ohio State. His first season at LSU was very average — he threw for 16 touchdowns only and had five picks in 13 games. After the 2018 season he was viewed as a day three pick.
Brady arrived in 2019 and suddenly Burrow was throwing for 60 touchdowns, winning the Heisman and leading an unbeaten National Champion. He became the sure-fire #1 overall pick.
That success brought Brady back to the NFL with the Panthers. He’d previously worked for Sean Payton as an offensive assistant. He’s created an impression despite not having a great quarterback or O-line in Carolina.
He’s only 32 so he’s young. Not everyone is Sean McVay and naturally suited to being a young Head Coach. The only way to found out, really, is to have intimate knowledge of how he operates and to interview him for a job.
Yet Brady feels like the kind of creative, dynamic coach Wilson craves. We all know he has a lot of admiration for Payton’s system in New Orleans. Brady’s background with the Saints could be a winner if the aim is to build a strong relationship here.
Darboll is a different type of candidate. He’s 46 — so 14 years older than Brady. He’s been around a long time.
Here’s his résumé:
New England — 2000-01
New England — 2002-06
New York Jets — 2007-08
Cleveland — 2009-10
Miami — 2011
Kansas City — 2012
New England — 2013-16
(tight ends coach)
Alabama — 2017
(offensive coordinator & QB coach)
Buffalo — 2018-2021
Some of these stints have been unsuccessful. For example, with the Browns he helped run the 32nd ranked offense in 2009 and the 29th ranked offense in 2010.
He’s very much part of the Belichick tree, working for the Patriots and also Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel and Nick Saban.
Going to work with the Bills is his first venture outside of that Belichick-inpsired world.
Many of Belichick’s protégés have flopped as Head Coaches. That would have to be the slight concern with Darboll. Yet his work with Josh Allen is a tremendous counter point to that.
Allen has been transformed from a figure of fun among NFL fans to one of the best players in the league. Darboll has earned a reputation for tailoring gameplan’s for specific opponents. He’s not wedded to a brand of offense per se. He’s known to have games where they abandon the run if that’s what is necessary. Everything feels deliberate and calculated.
He’s not only worked wonders with Allen. The likes of Stefon Diggs have excelled in this offense. He’s got a lot out of the O-line and running backs — despite a lack of elite players in either unit.
PFF wrote a decent breakdown on how Darboll has worked with Allen to achieve success in Buffalo.
Transplanting his offensive vision, which appears to be open-minded and has adapted and developed during his various stints in the league and college, would be a major boon for the Seahawks.
There are other names to mention too. It seems quite strange to mention Kellen Moore’s name, given he was playing college football at the same time as Wilson. Yet his work with the Cowboys’ offense has been tremendous. Eric Bienemy’s name is always mentioned as a candidate yet there have been various reports about poor interviews and concerning moments in his past that have seemingly prevented him from getting an opportunity. Green Bay’s Nathaniel Hackett will likely be a candidate for teams in 2022 also.
There are options to take this franchise in a new direction and create the kind of working relationship and philosophy Wilson craves.
Pairing the offensive minded Head Coach with an experienced defensive coordinator would be the key. They would need someone who can deliver a complementary defense that is schemed well, can provide regular pressure and find a way to finally plug in some cornerbacks who are capable of making a few plays.
It’s not an overly ambitious or unrealistic plan. Whoever took over would also need to be supported by a strong off-season where key roster changes were made.
I do think it’s worth giving this kind of plan a try, though, before we embrace the alternative of a total re-working of the franchise.
#3 Re-focus resources to different positions
We’ve long stated that the Seahawks are spending far too much resource at linebacker and safety and that needs to change.
Bobby Wagner is 32 next June and has a $20m cap hit next year. It might be time to move on in the off-season.
I would consider eating a significant cap-hit to trade Jamal Adams and just enable both parties to move on. Dealing him after June 1st next year allows you to spread out the damage. It’d cost you $4m in 2022 and $12m in 2023. It’s not ideal but it’s quickly starting to feel like this might be an unsalvageable situation unless you appoint a defensive coordinator who can breathe new life into his career.
Alternatively, considering the team is currently set to carry over $11m into next years salary cap, they might just want to eat the $16m that it’d cost to trade him at the start of the off-season. It might actually be easier to trade him post-contract extension, with buyers knowing the exact cost and having no guaranteed money invested in Adams.
According to Over the Cap, trading or cutting Wagner alone would give the Seahawks about $59m to spend in 2022. They’d have a lot to do — with the likes of Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs out of contract.
They’re also not in a desperate state either — with at least some money to spend to try and kick-start a new regime.
What should the priorities be?
For the first time in a long time, the complete mission statement should be to become a team that dominates in the trenches. That’s where the big money should be spent. That’s where the top draft picks should be invested.
The aim should be to create a team that can kick your arse up front on both sides of the ball — home or away.
Other positions, such as safety, can be left up to the likes of Ryan Neal to fly around and make plays. It’s time to focus on speed and value at the non-premium positions and use the bulk of your resources on the positions of greater importance.
On top of that, it’s time for the Seahawks to go and get a truly excellent, reliable running back.
For a team that supposedly values the running game so much — they’ve passed on most of the leagues top runners in the draft (Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara etc) because they don’t fit ideals.
It’s time to go and acquire a runner that opponents fear playing.
Give Russell Wilson a good O-line and running game to go along with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett — plus a complementary pass-rushing defense — and there’s absolutely no reason why this team can’t return to success quickly.
The following are all scheduled to be free agents in 2022:
Dante Fowler Jr.
There are going to be some options to add quality to the trenches in the veteran market.
There are draft options too, such as:
Trevor Penning (T, Northern Iowa)
Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan)
Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
Alex Forsyth (C, Oregon)
Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa)
Rasheed Walker (T, Penn State)
Haskell Garrett (DT, Ohio State)
Zachary Carter (DE, Florida)
Jermaine Johnson (DE, Florida)
Drake Jackson (DE, USC)
Logan Hall (DT, Houston)
Devonte Wyatt (DT, Georgia)
Darian Kinnard (T, Kentucky)
There’s a cluster of talented running backs including Michigan State’s brilliant Kenneth Walker, UCLA’s Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet and Alabama’s Brian Robinson.
It’s a shame that in a year where the Seahawks might end up with a top-12 pick that they might take themselves out of contention for a prodigious cornerback talent in Derek Stingley — purely for the folly of the desperate Jamal Adams trade.
We’ve seen teams return to contention quickly with inspired off-season moves and a shift in philosophy. That is what I would like to try.
As the Dallas Cowboys are currently proving, you can get things moving in the right direction. This doesn’t have to be long or painful. It just needs to be different in the right areas.
A quick note for this week — I will be doing a live stream with Jeff Simmons on Wednesday at 2pm PST. If you missed yesterday’s with Brian from Hawkblogger, check it out below:
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