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Wassell’s 3 Thoughts: Pete Carroll needs to take more control of Seahawks’ defense

Pete Carroll's Seahawks are 3-0 in spite of a rough start to the year on defense. (Getty)

Welcome to another edition of Tom Wassell’s Thoughts, a regular column from the co-host of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy. This week, Tom explains what worries him about the Seahawks looking down the road of this season, his hopes for the Mariners in free agency and more.

Rost: Seahawks’ path to the top has never looked easier, which adds pressure

My Worst Fear: The Underdog

Remember last season when the Baltimore Ravens went 14-2 behind an MVP performance from Lamar Jackson and an excellent defense, only to be clipped by a plucky Tennessee Titans team in the divisional round? That’s my worst fear for the Seahawks this season. Please don’t call me negative for expressing that thought. At least some of you harbor the same worry.

Offensively, things have gone perfectly for the Seahawks. They can win a shootout with anyone and probably will, given that Russell Wilson is better than anyone in the NFC – probably the league (save the Mahomes stuff, OK?). I have faith that the defense will improve, even if Pete and John don’t add another lineman or pass rusher like Damon Harrison or Clay Matthews. There’s a lot of talent here – Wagner, KJ, Adams, Reed, Diggs, even Poona Ford is a solid player. If they want to add another guy, great, but if they don’t so be it. Give them some time to gel.

There’s a handful of things working against NFL defenses to begin with. No crowd noise, referees not calling holding penalties on offense as much, the game being set up to favor passing as it is. It would be surprising if any defense in the league came up below 300 points allowed for the year.

If they don’t improve, though, we’re gonna have problems in January. I’d be shocked if a team that allows that volume of passing yardage made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Granted, the Seahawks have played against three terrific offensive units in Atlanta, New England and Dallas, but that’s what we’re gonna run into come the playoffs, even with a high seed (which they should earn easily).

How disappointing would it be to get the same result in the playoffs after the way Russell and this offense will have dominated the league for 17 weeks? Ugh. It happens almost every year. A 1 or 2 seed takes a week off and a red-hot wild-card squad comes in with an attitude, shutting down the big guys.

Solutions? Pete Carroll needs to have an even bigger part in coaching this defense. Yes, he already oversees everything – to what extent may vary from season to season – but as one of the best and most experienced defensive minds in the league, he should basically move Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton aside (no, don’t fire him – or maybe fire him?), take over this project and make it the best coaching job he’s ever done.

But just to say it again, I’m optimistic. They’re great and it’s going to be a fun few months at the least.

Don’t Be Afraid of Free Agency

This isn’t a statement about who the Mariners should or shouldn’t go after this offseason. That’s an exercise for another time. I just want to say that in terms of organizational progress, the time is right to add a big arm (bullpen or rotation) if Jerry Dipoto sees someone he likes at the right price.

The 2020 season proved that the Mariners are indeed on the right track. Almost all of their young stars showed that they belong in the major leagues (some still have work to do – I’m looking at you, Shed Long Jr.). If 2021 is going to be a year in which the team actually competes for a playoff spot, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do it without adding at least one big arm and probably a couple of smaller ones. The rotation looks solid with Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, and we’ll see if they can get Taijuan Walker back (he loves it here in Seattle). Imagine those guys with still another year of development and a true No. 1 or No. 2 starter plus a proven bullpen arm. Now we’re really cooking with gas!

There’s no reason that if everything holds true from this season, with some improvement for all just based on experience that the Mariners can’t play well over .500 next season and scare the dickens out of any contender in the American League. There’s another team to worry about, and the name of that team is… the Seattle Mariners. Feels so good to write that.

I’m Bored. I’m the Chairman of the Bored.

That’s an Iggy Pop reference for you civilians.

I’m bored with the baseball playoffs. LONG games and too darn many of them. This isn’t the NCAA Tournament where you can spread out on the couch and turn your head back and forth between your bracket and the TV. Basketball has the kind of action that can carry an entire day’s worth of TV viewing. Baseball does not. I get that MLB had to try something else with the shortened season, but you know what’s coming: Rob Manfred and a bunch of stooges in his office high fiving one another saying, “This is amazing, we should do this every year.”

AHHHHHH NO.

Yeah, let’s water it down even more. Look, they added another wild card in 2012, which seemed like too many teams, but it made sense because we ended up with six deserving division winners and four second-place teams that had to play an extra game to get into the field. OK, fine, make the second-place teams do more work, that’s logical. Now, we’ve got teams that are barely .500 knocking off more deserving teams (Astros-Twins) because that’s how baseball goes.

Think about it – on a random weekend, the worst team in the league could sweep the best in a three-game series and nobody bats an eye, because it’s a totally normal occurrence. Now, we’re inviting that same scenario into the playoffs. Why? Why should the 6, 7 or 8 seed be able to go up against a 1 and knock them out of the tournament? At the end of October, is anyone gonna think the best team (or one of the best teams) won?

I know what you’re thinking: “But Tom, in the NHL that happens all the time. Look at the 2019 St. Louis Blues.” Yeah, well, but they have to win four grueling rounds of best-of-seven hockey. And besides, the standings in the NHL are a little funky with the way points are awarded. A fourth- or fifth-place team is closer to the first-place team than you think. Closer than in MLB, anyway.

There are other issues too. I don’t know ANY of these players. Do you? If you’re not a hardcore baseball fan, can you really sit through lord knows how many hours of Braves-Reds while they set all kinds of records for strikeouts? All the while not having a clue where the storylines are? I can’t do it. If there are fewer teams, there’s less to learn and it gives us an opportunity to dig into the players and stories that deserve to be told. This is wrong. It violates the nature of the baseball season in favor of a superficial payoff which is “More baseball!”

Gimme less, better baseball. Make me set aside what I’d normally be doing in October to plop down on the ol’ sofa and bring me back to a time when playoff baseball was something that couldn’t be missed.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell on Twitter.

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