Pete Carroll’s end of season press conferences are typically quite revealing and provide a roadmap to the off-season. That was especially so today.
It started with the usual conversation with Brock Huard & Mike Salk on Seattle Sports, in what was a good interview where several of the more pressing questions for the future were put to Carroll.
Things started strangely though with the following exchange:
Salk: “For the final time this year, good morning Coach, how are we?”
Carroll: “It’s the last time you’re going to say something like that to me.”
Salk: “I know, maybe ever, who knows?”
I had a few people reach out about what this means and listening back, I don’t really know. For all the speculation that Carroll was considering retirement, I doubt he would’ve done two long press conferences today if he intended to call it quits in a few days.
I can only guess this is something to do with the Pete Carroll show itself? It was a bit confusing to hear this back-and-forth at the start.
I thought Carroll struck a good tone in his interview and that continued into his press conference later on. There was no rhetoric about being ‘close’ as we’ve heard in the past when it felt forced. This was as honest as a coach could be without upsetting anyone.
Carroll acknowledged the ‘distance’ between Seattle’s roster and San Francisco’s and stated the need to have great players up front. He didn’t sugarcoat anything with the defense and highlighted the clear areas that need to be improved.
This was refreshing to hear.
Carroll repeatedly referenced how badly they need to have better players up front. He hammered that point home in both media appearances. In previous years he’s dropped subtle hints towards off-season priorities. There was no subtlety here. It was shouted from the rooftops that the Seahawks need to add D-line talent.
He mentioned needing impact players and “guys who are a factor“. He declared, “we have to become more dynamic up front.”
I had two thoughts as I was listening.
The first was to jump to the immediate conclusion that this means they’ll be drafting a defensive player with their top pick. That thought was reinforced when Carroll said, “we’ve got our guy” in reference to Geno Smith.
I’ve seen media members already tweeting that this means D-line all the way in the draft but I’d caution against that. Carroll is very generous in his final press conference and he gives bits of information to provide talking points over the next few weeks.
However, it feels a bit too obvious to think he just laid out Seattle’s specific off-season approach in a public announcement.
Thus, my second thought was to consider some of the other things he said. Carroll went to great lengths to emphasise the excitement of the draft was as much about their other picks in the first three rounds, not just the fifth overall pick.
Then later on he said:
“The QB’s in this draft are extraordinary players. You don’t get opportunities like this.”
He also left the door open for talks over trading down.
When you add all this together, he’s dipped his toe in every pond. Clearly upgrading the front seven is a massive priority and we can all see that. However, they could easily spend four high picks on the front seven and still save #5 for a quarterback.
On top of that, they’d be foolish not to listen to any trade offers for #5. Any team will listen — but it doesn’t mean they necessarily plan to accept the offer unless it’s truly beneficial.
After reflecting on everything that’s been said — I don’t think we can say with any greater certainty what Seattle intends to do at #5. What I do think we can say with absolute certainty, though, is that one way or another there’s going to be a big investment in the D-line.
That could also be with a free agent splash, for once, money permitting. They haven’t been a team that typically goes big in the market but they did in 2011 to accelerate building their roster. I wonder if that’ll be the plan again to help fix what has been stated as a major issue?
The name that could really appeal is Da’Ron Payne from Washington.
As comparisons were being made to San Francisco, it’s worth noting they hit a home run acquiring Trent Williams and then paying him in free agency. Perhaps the Seahawks will themselves consider a splurge for someone like Payne who would immediately upgrade the defensive front? He’s a good age and only turns 26 in May.
That would take the pressure off the draft and keep all options open at #5 — quarterback, trading down or another defensive lineman.
Of course, Washington aren’t likely to let him go without a fight. They will surely free up $26m by cutting Carson Wentz — creating ample room to retain Payne one way or another.
Regardless, the way Carroll spoke means my next mock draft will feature an array of defensive front seven talent being added. They sound like they’re going to really attack that area, with or without the fifth pick being part of it.
I’ve seen it implied that Carroll’s praise of the quarterbacks is in some way an attempt to build a trade-market for Seattle’s pick.
This feels like a reach. For starters, no team is being influenced by something another coach says in a press conference. They have their own scouts, GM’s and Head Coaches to analyse talent and need. It’s hardly like the Carolina Panthers watched that presser today and then called an emergency meeting to plot their move up the board for a QB.
Secondly, I’ve watched every game the top-four quarterbacks in this draft ever played (such is my social life). They are really good, as Carroll says. What’s more, at least three of them perfectly align with what John Schneider has found attractive at the position in the past.
Nothing about today compels me to avoid pairing a quarterback with the Seahawks at #5 in future mocks. As Carroll points out, it’s a rare opportunity to pick that early.
Very few people are prepared to consider the ‘best of both worlds’ scenario. This is re-signing Geno Smith and drafting a quarterback. It creates a replica of what happened in Kansas City, who had a bridge quarterback (Alex Smith) and the future of the franchise (Patrick Mahomes).
Imagine a scenario where a rookie drafted by the Seahawks can take his time to learn the scheme for a year or two, while Smith leads the way? Then, when the time is right, the baton can be passed. If handled properly, as it was in Kansas City, there are no issues. Alex Smith was traded to Washington for a player and a third round pick in the end. There’s no reason why the Seahawks couldn’t try to copy this plan.
It would mean no defensive player drafted at #5 but it’s too readily assumed a great option will present itself.
It’s very like Arizona will draft one of the top two defenders at #3. I would suggest they are likely to take Will Anderson after losing edge defenders Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt in back-to-back years.
Jalen Carter is brilliantly talented but as we’ve discussed a lot recently, there are some concerns. We highlighted a recent video where he expressed multiple times last April that improving his conditioning was a priority. Yet at the end of the season, we could see he was exhausted to such an extent he admitted he was ’embarrassed’.
On top of that, Todd McShay has reported teams do have some character concerns with Carter.
It’s not as simple, therefore, as thinking there’s a ready-made solution at #5 for the defensive line. Carroll also stressed today that it had taken the 49ers many years to build their great defense.
I also need to keep stressing, having watched all of his 2022 games, that Clemson defender Myles Murphy did not have a good season and is more raw athlete than anything polished at this stage. He in particular struggles against the run despite being 275lbs (I’ve called him a pussycat) and this was an area today highlighted by Carroll as a big problem. I’d go as far to say that if defending the run better is key for the Seahawks, drafting Murphy would be counter-productive based on his time at Clemson. Watch the way Notre Dame ran all over him for an illustration of what I’m talking about. He also only had 6.5 sacks and didn’t start at least two games due to poor play.
Tyree Wilson is someone who could end up really interesting Seattle. His frame is ridiculous and unique — 6-6, 270lbs and a wingspan stretching 7-feet in length. If he tests well I can imagine the Seahawks showing major interest — even if there’s a fair bit of inconsistency on tape (and the record of BIG-12 defenders coming into the league hasn’t been great recently).
The top quarterbacks — C.J. Stroud (who I’ll talk about in a bit), Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young — are excellent players with fantastic character. They are all good or great athletes with the potential to be franchise QB’s.
Many of the people knocking this quartet were the same people suggesting Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder should be first round picks a year ago. The 2022 quarterback class was poor. The 2023 quarterback class is top-heavy but is a lot better.
Back to Carroll’s words and I did notice this line when talking about the defense:
“It’s stuff that we can really fix, it’s right there in front of us”
This is a line that is often used during the season but it is wearing a bit thin. Seattle’s defense has had, to be fair, ‘things that they can really fix’ for a number of years. And yet they never are fixed.
‘Fixing the pass rush’ was declared as a big priority four years ago. It’s now 2023 and Carroll is saying the same thing.
In 2019, ‘fixing the pass rush’ equated to trading Frank Clark, drafting L.J. Collier, signing an injured Ziggy Ansah and then trading for Jadeveon Clowney right before the season. I hope the 2023 plan is better than this.
In 2020, ‘fixing the pass rush’ equated to retaining Clowney as a priority and adding more. They couldn’t agree terms with Clowney and instead added Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin, before drafting an injured Darrell Taylor and trading for an expensive pass-rushing safety. At the trade deadline, they added Carlos Dunlap. I hope the 2023 plan is better than this.
In 2021, ‘fixing the pass rush’ equated to bringing back Dunlap on a deal they ripped up at the end of the season, signing Kerry Hyder and having Taylor available for the first time. I hope the 2023 plan is better than this.
You get the picture.
The thing is, Carroll is right. They can fix this. But they have to be prepared to spend a bit more. If Da’Ron Payne does reach the market then why not be willing to pay a little bit more than maybe you’re initially comfortable with to get him? Signing replaceable players has simply led to a lack of quality. They haven’t been able to re-create the magic of the Bennett and Avril contracts and now it’s probably time to just go out and get someone who, on day one, can be a difference maker.
On a different topic — during the interview on Brock & Salk, Carroll was given an opportunity to bask in a 9-8 season when many people expected a far worse record. He rejected that opportunity and I liked that.
Undoubtedly Seattle’s win record and playoff qualification was unexpected. There’s no need for victory laps though and Carroll acknowledged that. The Seahawks did benefit from one of the weakest schedules in the league, played badly on defense for most of the season and were carried at times by a journeyman quarterback who excelled against the odds.
This is still a team with a lot of holes, not enough star players and a ton of work to do. Carroll, quite rightly, is viewing it that way and wasn’t in the mood to accept a pat on the back. That was encouraging and again, was a very different tone to the talk of being ‘close’ a year ago when they clearly weren’t.
Other notable quotes included Carroll’s praise of Austin Blythe:
“He was a real factor for us… terrific leader, solidified it”
A lot of fans won’t like that because many feel an upgrade at center is needed. I don’t disagree and think Sedrick Van Pran, if he declares following a very traumatic last few days, could be a home-run pick. However, it’s worth stating again that the Rams blocking scheme, which Seattle is using, has typically ‘got by’ at center with a specific body type and skill-set that Blythe does fit.
It doesn’t mean they won’t go for a Van Pran or a Luke Wypler or someone of that ilk but it’s entirely possible they re-sign Blythe and perhaps add some competition later in the draft or in the veteran market. Joey Hunt, who is just like Blythe, has also been on the practise squad all year. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being the backup to Blythe — or even a cheap competition to start.
On the defense again, Carroll spoke about the scheme change:
“We might’ve shot a little too high… need to be fundamentally better up front”
He also spoke about being able to split double teams and rush the passer better. He constantly talked about being a factor up front and how much they miss not having that X-factor player (which is very, very difficult to find).
The one player I think has been best at splitting double teams is Tyree Wilson. I am not that excited about him being ‘the guy’ at #5. Neither am I that convinced he’ll prove to be a difference maker given how inconsistent his tape is. There aren’t many humans with his size and length though and again — if he tests well at the combine or pro-day, he could emerge as a real option for Seattle (even ahead of Jalen Carter).
Carroll mentioned they adjusted their scheme during the season and made a four-week turn where results improved. This certainly did happen but it would also be useful to acknowledge that, from Germany onwards, opponents found a way to attack the Seahawks in the running game and that fleeting run of positivity completely evaporated very quickly.
They can’t spend the off-season tweaking things, only to find a month into the season their opponents have found a similar way to tear them apart. Talent may be a big issue here and rectifying that should help — yet it’s still something that warrants pointing out. Plus — they can’t afford to start the season as badly on defense as they have the last few years. For once, can they at least just be average to begin a season?
Carroll backed the scheme overall and said they wouldn’t change. I was hoping they would but it’s possible the tweaks and adjustments will be significant and he’s just not spelling it out here.
This video highlights how badly teams are struggling running Vic Fangio concepts without the man himself working the controls. Seattle and Minnesota are two of the biggest culprits in how this scheme has been exploited. The Vikings poached defensive coordinator Ed Donatell from the Seahawks just as he was set to join the team and it’s been a mess for Minnesota in 2022.
I really hope the Seahawks aren’t going to draft players for this scheme only to need to replace all of those players in 2-3 years if it doesn’t work. I’d rather be adding talent and copying the 49ers and Cowboys personally. They seem like the models to mimic, not the Fangio system. It helps having Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons — yet the Chargers have not faired well with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack operating in a similar scheme to the Seahawks.
I’m not convinced Jordyn Brooks is as good as Carroll suggested today — naming him as a player opponents consistently have to account for and talking up his quality.
I think you can count the number of ‘big plays’ by Brooks on one hand since he cost the Seahawks a first round pick. He’s very good at collecting tackles but doesn’t do enough to truly impact games. He had a 52.8 PFF grade this year which is dreadful. A year ago he graded at 58.4. He has two career sacks, zero career interceptions and only 15 career TFL’s. To date he’s been underwhelming and yet he’s often talked up like a key contributor. I’m not seeing it.
Overall though I thought it was a good media session. No cracks were papered over and it’s evident they know how important this draft is for the franchise and how much work is required to improve. Now they have to deliver. I hope they are bolder in free agency than previous years and try not to add a lot of very average (or below average) players to fill things out as they have done in the past. Adding quality must be the key — even if it comes at a hefty free agent price.
But please, no more big trades.
I also hope they view this 2023 draft as phase two of a rebuild not phase one of ‘go for it next season’. The way Carroll talked today gave me confidence because he wasn’t saying anything about drafting players to seriously contend in 2023. It feels like a longer term approach is being taken while acknowledging pressing, immediate needs that have to be addressed.
C.J. Stroud declares for the draft
This was very welcome news and is particularly beneficial to the Seahawks.
Stroud is a potential #1 overall pick. He is extremely accurate and throws with wonderful touch to all areas of the field. He’s a good athlete with a strong arm. He has excellent character, ideal size and the potential to be a real difference maker at the next level.
The one criticism was about his ability to play outside of the constraints of the Buckeyes offense. He showed he can do that in glorious fashion against Georgia with a masterful performance.
For me, Stroud or Will Levis will be the #1 pick with Indianapolis (#4) or Carolina (#9) trading up to get them.
Either way, I’ll be surprised if Stroud lasts to #5. He would be a great option for the Seahawks to draft and develop. If he isn’t available though, his presence in the top-four pushes another player down to Seattle that otherwise might be gone.
If the Seahawks stick at #5 I think the decision will ultimately come down to whoever is left between Stroud, Levis, Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young, the two defensive linemen Will Anderson and Jalen Carter, or a potential surge-prospect such as Tyree Wilson.
These are all great options for Seattle. The benefit of being in the top-five versus the #8-15 range is enormous. It’ll probably take a kings ransom to get Seattle to move down because the opportunity to draft someone at #5 versus later on will be huge.
Stroud, Levis and Richardson all scream John Schneider. That shouldn’t be ignored. They are exactly the types I would expect Schneider to be very excited about. Big arm, great athlete, creative, elusive, playmakers.
Let’s also remember Levis played a year in Seattle’s exact offense under Liam Coen and excelled massively. I’ve felt for a long time that Schneider would be very interested in Levis — I think many other teams will be too.
The quarterbacks are not less risky than the defensive linemen named above — that’s a fallacy that has gained too much traction. As someone who has studied this class to the absolute max, this has bizarrely become an under-rated group. They’re not flawless, far from it, but neither were Mahomes, Allen and Herbert.
That said, there’s also clear talent with Anderson and Carter, while Wilson has such an enticing physical profile. There are also some concerns that aren’t highlighted as much as the flaws shown by the quarterbacks.
Now that Stroud has declared and Carroll has spoken — I will plan to publish a mock draft this week.
First though, I will be conducting my annual interview with Jim Nagy tomorrow discussing the Senior Bowl and on Wednesday I will be joined by Jeff Simmons on a live stream. I hope you’ll check out both.
And if you missed it yesterday, don’t forget to read Curtis Allen’s outstanding piece reviewing Seattle’s cap situation.
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