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O’Neil: The 6-1 Seahawks’ strategic shift should win Coach of the Year for Pete Carroll

Despite two Super Bowls and eight playoff berths, Pete Carroll hasn't won Coach of the Year. (Getty)

Seattle’s best defense? Its offense, and Pete Carroll deserves more than just credit for adjusting to the Seahawks’ current reality.

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He should be given an award. In fact, if Seattle winds up winning the NFC West, Carroll should be named the NFL’s Coach of the Year.

Now, this isn’t usually how that award gets decided. Usually, it goes to the guy who oversees the biggest turnaround in the league. The one who breathes life into a down-and-out and franchise. Like Matt Nagy, who in 2018 won 12 games with a Chicago team that had gone 5-11 the year before. Or Sean McVay, who took over the Rams in 2017 and won 11 games, resuscitating a franchise that hadn’t had a winning record since 2003.

It’s not what Carroll bounced back from that is nearly as important as the strategy he shifted to. Defense has been the bedrock of not just Carroll’s coaching career, but the team he and John Schneider built here in Seattle. It’s the offense that is now Seattle’s signature, which is covering for a defense that has become a bit of a liability. That defense cast a shadow over Seattle’s success last season and it very well could have compromised this season had Carroll not leaned into his team’s biggest strength: quarterback Russell Wilson.

Remember back in the 1984 when Curt Warner suffered a devastating knee injury and Ground Chuck went to being Air Knox? Well, it wasn’t an injury that dictated Carroll’s shift so much as a recognition of Seattle’s current reality. Wilson is putting up MVP numbers, and Carroll OK’d a strategic shift that gave him the room to do it.

The franchise record for points scored is 452 set in 2005. The Seahawks have scored 240 in seven games, putting them on pace for 548.6.

The franchise record for receiving yards is 1,287, set by Steve Largent in 1985. Both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are currently on pace to surpass that mark, and Lockett is on pace to become the first player in franchise history to catch 100 passes in a season.

But it’s not just the totals, it’s the timing. Seattle is throwing more on early downs and early in games. It’s finding the end zone earlier, too. Seattle has scored 56 points in the first quarter this season, which is 23.3 percent of its scoring total. That’s significant because in Carroll’s first 10 seasons, the Seahawks had never scored more than 20 percent of their points in the opening period. So while you may not be able to win the game in the first quarter, it sure helps to get off to a strong start especially given the way the bottom has dropped out of this defense in the second half.

Of the 199 points allowed by the Seahawks this season, 83 have been tallied in the fourth quarter, more than 40 percent. The Seahawks haven’t just survived that. They’re thriving, and while that doesn’t mean that Carroll or the Seahawks will stop trying to shore up the defensive issues, the reality is that the strategic shift has kept that defense from becoming an Achilles heel.

Will Seattle’s strategic shift catch the eye of awards voters? Who knows. They might decide to give the award to Bruce Arians again. The Bucs are 6-2 this season with Tom Brady after winning only seven games a year ago. Arians has been chosen ahead of Carroll twice, getting it in 2012 when Arians served as the Colts interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was receiving treatment, then in 2014 with Arizona Cardinals. That gives Arians more Coach of the Year awards (two) than postseason victories (one).

In some ways, Seattle’s sustained success has worked against Carroll’s recognition. He has never had a valley to bounce back from, and even this season, with Seattle standing atop the conference, it looks more like a continuation of last year’s success than it does some new era.

But Seattle is doing it an entirely different way, and that’s what gives the Seahawks a chance to make the leap from being good back to being great.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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