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Clayton: Critics of Pete Carroll’s desire for Seahawks to run miss the point

Seahawks HC Pete Carroll has received criticism for wanting to run the ball more in 2021. (Getty)

Critics of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s desire to run the ball more are missing the point.

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Carroll has a formula for winning football. First, he believes a team has to win the turnover battle. Second, he believes in an offense balanced between the run and the pass. He holds to what used to be known as the “Theory of 49,” which in some circles of this quarterback-driven league is known as the “Theory of 53.” That formula says is you have 49 or 53 combined plays of running plays and pass completions, that gives a team the best chance to win.

The Seahawks finished the season averaging 49.9 of those plays per game, 18th best in the league. Washington and Tampa Bay were the only playoff teams lower than Seattle.

I listened with interest to DK Metcalf’s comments the other day. He said teams figured out the Seahawks’ offense. He said it was run, run, run, run, deep pass. He’s right that defenses figured out ways to slow down the Seahawks’ offense. Defensive coordinators used more two-deep zones to limit play-action passes. What he is looking at isn’t justified in the numbers, though.

Sure, Metcalf is correct in saying the Seahawks tried to run the ball after they had the 12 turnovers in the four regular-season losses. That made them more predictable, but they were still able to win because Russell Wilson wasn’t making turnovers against good defenses.

So were the Seahawks run, run, run, run, deep pass? On first down, they ran 48.1 percent of the time and passed 51.9. That ranked 19th in the league. Every team in the NFC West and a total of eight playoff teams had a higher running percentage than the Seahawks. In fact, in the first half of games, the Seahawks passed the ball 62.7 percent of the time and ran 37.3, ranking 23rd in the league. That’s not Pete Carroll football. For the season, they passed the ball 59.8 percent and ran 40.2.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, but the more the Seahawks pass, the better chance of the team committing turnovers.

In hiring a new offensive coordinator, Carroll needs to find an up-and-rising young coach who can call more runs and not be predictable with the play calls between the run and the pass. I still look at the numbers for the Green Bay Packers and am impressed how they built a better running game around Aaron Rodgers and how it helped get them back to the NFC Championship game.

This was a strange season. Holding penalties were down. Sacks were down. Those two plays are drive killers and you could see the increase in sacks down the stretch hurt the Seahawks’ offense. Wilson has pretty much averaged three sacks a game for the last three years. That number needs to come down. Believe it or not, the Seahawks improved in that area. They had 10 holding penalties this year. Last year they had 23, tied for the fifth-most in the league.

The signing of Brandon Shell and the drafting of Damien Lewis improved the offensive line. The next step is to see if they can re-sign Ethan Pocic at center, then decide what to do at left guard. At some point they need to find the left tackle who could replace Duane Brown, though Brown had a great season.

The key is to get the right offensive coordinator who works for Wilson and for the Seahawks’ offense.

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