For three months, the Seattle Seahawks provoked frustration, anger and scorn – pretty much in that order.
The burning question on the table now is whether they knocked aside all that angst over the final six weeks, and most particularly with two season-ending games that showed how good they could have been. As coach Pete Carroll put it Sunday, “Our guys know how we can play. It just took too long, unfortunately.”
Put in simpler terms, did the Seahawks display enough over the closing stretch, capped by Sunday’s 38-30 win over the Arizona Cardinals, to dissuade use of the nuclear option by the woman who will make the ultimate decisions, team chair Jody Allen?
No one has a clue what Allen is thinking about the futures of Carroll, general manager John Schneider and quarterback Russell Wilson, because she hasn’t said a public word.
But I’m going to make a prediction: All three will be back in 2022. And I’ve been swayed to the conclusion that it’s the right thing to do.
That doesn’t mean, for starters, all the speculation about Wilson’s future was misguided or overblown. There are some very real issues of contention at play here, and they must be resolved. What it means is that the Seahawks hold the cards, and will come to the rational conclusion that trading a quarterback of Wilson’s caliber – his intermittent struggles in 2021 not withstanding – is not the way to get back on a championship track.
Yes, he made two egregious errors Sunday that led directly to 14 points by the Cardinals. But Wilson also ran the offense with the sort of precision and command that reminded you why he has more wins at this stage of his career than any quarterback ever. On Sunday Wilson joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in each of their first 10 seasons.
You don’t want to overreact to a small sample size, but with Wilson, the sample size is a decade’s worth of games. And the further he distanced himself from his finger injury, the more he began to resemble the Wilson of old. The Seahawks’ best play is to figure out how to make Wilson happy, not to discard him and start over with a new quarterback.
Which brings us to Carroll and Schneider. I registered as much frustration as anyone when the Seahawks lost to the Bears on Dec. 26. But when you look at the bigger picture, one bad year after a decade of sustained success simply doesn’t warrant a change at the top. Those two have earned the right to work their way out of this.
The Seahawks’ 4-2 finish with an increasingly healthy Wilson, a resurgent Rashaad Penny, and a strong-performing offensive line, showed that the offense, under rookie coordinator Shane Waldron, has a blueprint for success.
It can’t be ignored that the Seahawks were coming off nine consecutive years of winning records, eight of them resulting in playoff appearances and double-digit victories. Yes, the postseason results of late have been disappointing, but when you look at the history of this franchise before Carroll arrived, and how hard it is to sustain success in the NFL, you realize how special that is.
It can’t be ignored that five of the losses this year were by three points or fewer. And it can’t be ignored that they went 1-6 during the four weeks Wilson was out (including the game in which he was hurt) and the three following weeks when he clearly was still hampered by the injury.
That’s not to say all is rosy in Seattle. I would have leaned toward a regime change at one point this season (and if the season had unraveled over the final month, I would have pushed for it). Check back if next year goes off the rails again. Maybe it’s a mistake to let the glow of a big win over a bad Lions team and an upset in the desert (by a Seattle team playing with the freedom of having nothing to lose) knock aside all the gloom that had gathered. The phrase “recency bias” comes to mind.
Yet I saw a team that kept playing hard for Carroll even when its playoff fate was readily apparent. He concocted a motivational plan of treating the last two games as if they were the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. He said he was trying to “capture that moment when it doesn’t even really exist outside of your imagination.”
Now Allen has to use her imagination to decide whether this 7-10 season was an aberration or the start of an unstoppable decline in Seattle. And whether their 31-point scoring average over the final six games was in itself a sign of an offensive epiphany or just a fluke of circumstance.
Carroll said of their performance, “It was putting it together, playing like we’re capable, so that we could see the future.”
As Black Monday hits the NFL with a rash of firings already, you can see clearly how unstable franchises churn through coaching regimes. The Seahawks need to tweak, adjust and grow. They need to take a hard look at every aspect of their philosophy. They need to use their ample cap space wisely.
But they don’t need to clean house.