If you missed last night’s instant reaction article and podcast, I’d recommend checking it out. A lot of what I discuss here is a follow on from that.
In the aftermath of Seattle’s loss to Minnesota I suggested changes were necessary.
Ken Norton Jr has endured a difficult run as defensive coordinator. He was once fired mid-season with the Oakland Raiders. As difficult as it’ll be for Pete Carroll, history should repeat.
It might not change a great deal for this season but there has to be consequences when a performance level is consistently bad.
Just as Carroll used ‘the bench is an ally’ to warn his team last week about their performance levels, the same standard needs to be set for the coaches.
Norton Jr is clearly a principled and likeable man who deserves to be cherished for his time in Seattle. Nobody could blame him for returning to run Carroll’s defense in 2018. His interactions on the sideline with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Marshawn Lynch and others during the Super Bowl runs are memorable.
His own attitude and toughness was brought to life on the field by the likes of Lynch and Kam Chancellor. You could sense it.
But he’s a bad defensive coordinator.
Carroll himself has never been a particularly strong ‘details and adjustments’ coach. Right now, he needs someone of that description alongside him. The only way to rescue this season is to find a way to make this defense function.
No more easy completions for the quarterback. No lack of pressure. No total inability to slow anyone down. No more allowing opponents to dictate to you as they march up and down the field, while the Seahawks passively take their punishment.
The fans are starting to turn. As someone who has been critical of the Seahawks for some time, I’ve never seen it like this. Usually there’s a real pushback when Carroll’s future is discussed. Yet numerous podcasts, streams, articles and tweets are saying the same thing. It’s time for a change.
Sometimes you’ve got to act to give yourself a shot. Just as the Ravens did in 2012 — firing struggling offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replacing him with Jim Caldwell.
The Ravens were 9-4 at the time of that decision. It was surprising to many. The change was made anyway and a few weeks later Baltimore had a Super Bowl Championship and Joe Flacco was the MVP of the playoffs.
You could also argue such a move would be simply shuffling the deckchairs on a sinking Titanic. To be honest, that’s probably right. I don’t think this team is close to being a contender. Even if they sort the defense out somewhat — there are still other issues to rectify. For example, why does the offense grind to a halt every week after half-time? Why are the Seahawks so easily out-gunned in the game of adjustments? Are they good enough in the trenches? And how on earth do you fix the cornerback problem specifically?
Yet inaction eventually takes the form of complacency. Norton Jr was fortunate to survive long enough last season to benefit from Seattle’s powderpuff schedule. As people rushed to celebrate an improved performance, his job security regained full strength — undeservedly.
He should’ve gone along with Brian Schottenheimer after the Rams playoff debacle.
Carroll’s unwillingness to take a back seat and establish a role for himself as a figurehead kept Norton Jr in a job. Control is a big thing for Carroll. It’s why, even after week one, we had the absurd quote in response to a question about what Shane Waldron had brought to the offense:
“He’s open-minded to do things that we’ve done in the past”
I think there was an opportunity for Carroll to become Seattle’s answer to Nick Saban. Appoint high-profile, established coordinators and let them handle things. You act as the great overseer and maximise your qualities as a leader, motivator and culture builder.
Instead, Carroll prefers to end his stint in Seattle as he started. Doing things his way.
And let’s be clear — nobody should begrudge him for doing that. Provided he’s willing to fall on his sword now that it isn’t working.
Likewise, nobody can blame Carroll for wanting one last hurrah after the 2017 season. Clearly he contemplated retirement (otherwise Jay Glazer wouldn’t have mentioned it). After consideration, he decided he did want to build another team.
Calls for his departure after that year were premature, even knowing what we know now. Having built one of the all-time great NFL teams from 2010, Carroll had every right to look after the reset. He deserved a crack at this if that’s what he wanted.
Yet here we are, nearly four years on. A treasure trove of picks and cap space has been spent. Most of the roster has changed. They’ve traded away key players and traded for big names.
It hasn’t worked. It isn’t working. And it takes elite-level blind faith to think it will work next year.
I am convinced that Carroll will be reflective on this and honest with himself. If what we’ve seen so far continues, I believe he will retire at the end of the season.
Do that and he’ll remain a much loved Seattle legend. People will excuse the latter years and remember fondly the fact he delivered the first ever Super Bowl title to the city. It should’ve been two and it’s a shame they never avenged that trauma. That’s life. It isn’t ideal.
If he stays, he knows what the consequences are.
More drama with Russell Wilson. Potentially being remembered as the man who traded Wilson, the best quarterback in franchise history. The next reset would be even more painful because it would include finding a replacement quarterback.
Rather than return to contention, such a scenario could see the Seahawks collapse into being a really bad team. Carroll’s legacy would be tarnished.
He’ll be well aware of all this. And if he was considering retirement in 2017 due to similar thoughts, you better believe he’ll be thinking about it later this year if things don’t improve.
Carroll’s already giving off a ‘why the heck am I still doing this?’ vibe with his body language.
You could argue he’s just signed a five-year contract. Wasn’t that a signal of intent to carry on coaching?
Perhaps. Yet remember when he signed that deal. It was announced prior to the Buffalo game. That was before the team’s mid-season collapse. It was before the horrendous playoff loss to LA. It was before the Wilson-trade saga.
A lot has happened since then.
He possibly signed that deal believing his team were on the precipice of another great run.
And in 2017, when Glazer hinted at Carroll’s retirement, he was only a year removed from signing an extension.
We’ll see what Carroll decides.
I do think change is extremely necessary though. It’s much harder to replace a quarterback than a great coach. Just ask New England.
The 2022 quarterback draft class is awful. I can’t see Aaron Rodgers in Seattle. I’m not sure anyone knows what’s happening with Deshaun Watson’s league status and there’s increased talk that he’ll be dealt before the trade deadline anyway.
Pair Wilson with an offensive minded Head Coach and let’s see what happens. My choice remains Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady. He’s a Sean Payton disciple and Wilson has long wanted to work in that system. He’s getting a song out of Sam Darnold. He basically won LSU a National Championship.
Throw in an experienced defensive coordinator to run the defense and that would generate excitement for next year. Fans need that. The energy around this team is fading.
That in itself should be a talking point. It’s not acceptable for ownership to simply hand things off to Carroll and John Schneider and hide in the background.
If Carroll is unwilling to retire, it shouldn’t be assumed that he just carries on until he wants. There has to be some accountability from the top and it’s unclear, currently, if that structure exists. It has to at least be debated whether Carroll is ‘too’ powerful in the organisation.
In the short term, a bit of pressure also needs to be applied to Seattle’s media. They’ve had a good run over the last 11 seasons. Times have been good. Carroll is a fun person to interview. They’ve not had to rock the boat much.
Now is the time, however, to ask some probing and difficult questions. That starts with Mike Salk on 710 ESPN in the 1-to-1 interview this morning and goes into the group press conference later.
(ED — No probing or even mildly challenging questions were asked in the 710 ESPN interview with Mike Salk. Disappointing.)
(ED #2 — None of the questions below were asked but kudos to Gregg Bell for asking a couple of probing questions on the cornerbacks in the general press conference.)
— Does Carroll have to consider big changes, including to his staff, in light of what he’s seen so far?
— Does Carroll regret not doing more to address the cornerback position in the off-season?
— If Carroll isn’t talking to Richard Sherman as he claims, why not? What’s there to lose at this stage? Especially if the likes of Tampa Bay and Carolina were touching base with him?
— Why not make a push for CJ Henderson, who is seemingly being dealt to Carolina for a pittance?
— What has happened to the team identity?
— Will Carroll admit that it’s not a good look that they’re still working out how to best utilise Jamal Adams after all they’ve invested in him?
— Why do they keep investing in tight ends yet seem to really struggle to make them a consistent feature when the game kicks off?
— Has the team made enough progress since the 2018 reset?
— What has Jody Allen and/or Chuck Arnold said to him after the latest defeat?
This is just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are other questions that could be asked. None of these are unfair.
Just as the team needs to be seen to be acting to fix their problems, the media has to be seen to be asking questions of the person ultimately responsible for the football operations in Seattle.
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