Seahawks Q&A: What does the future look like for Wilson and Carroll in Seattle?

Oct 28, 2021, 9:47 AM
Seahawks Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll...
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson with head coach Pete Carroll after a touchdown during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Despite entering the season with Super Bowl hopes, the Seahawks are off to a 2-5 start and desperate for a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. With so many questions about the present (what’s the latest with Dee Eskridge?) and the future (can Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson make this work?), 710 ESPN Seattle’s Stacy Rost compiled a few answers for Seahawks fans.

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Here’s the latest Seahawks Q&A, with questions submitted by Twitter users:

@awkong90: Which defensive group makes the biggest leap?

You’d certainly love to see it be the pass rush. The good news is the team’s sack leader, Darrell Taylor, is expected back against Jacksonville and was a full participant in practice Wednesday (along with starting guard Damien Lewis). With Taylor in mind as a strongside linebacker, I might be looking at that group in particular to take a step forward. Jordyn Brooks made a few great plays Monday night, including a pass breakup in the end zone and a fumble recovery.

@walkngirl: Is there any concern about the Seahawks strength and conditioning program? Sometimes I wonder if some of the injuries are due to that.

It’s a fair question to ask, but it’s also one I’d normally reserve judgement on unless we start seeing recurring soft tissue injuries. Many of Seattle’s injuries this year just feel like rotten luck. Russell Wilson rupturing a tendon in his finger, Dee Eskridge being concussed, Marquise Blair fracturing his knee, and Darrell Taylor injuring his neck on a freak play are undoubtedly difficult moments for those players, but also hard to predict.

@TheeNelDog: Will Carroll ever admit his offensive philosophy doesn’t work in today’s NFL anymore and change it?

This is what’s tough: a version of his philosophy is working. Just not in Seattle.

They might not be doing it with the same schemes or systems, but the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens are both teams that like to run the ball often and do so effectively. The Browns have a near 50-50 split between the run and pass this season (50.11% pass plays) and are leading the league in rushing yards per game (170.4). Baltimore passes a bit more often (54.5% of the time) but still racks up 149 rushing yards per game, good for fourth overall. Those pass plays for Baltimore are up from 2019 – undoubtedly impacted by the hit to their running back depth – when they rushed on 55% of all plays and averaged a staggering 206 rushing yards per game to cap off an MVP season from quarterback Lamar Jackson.

There’s also the Tennessee Titans, where Derrick Henry is only 131 yards away from another 1,000-yard season. Then there’s the Dallas Cowboys, who are currently gaining more yards per game than any other offense in part because of their No. 4 overall run offense.

A few of these clubs have also excelled defensively, which makes for ideal Carroll teams. The Browns, for instance, are third overall in sacks, second in yards allowed, and importantly, are limiting opponents to just 80 yards on the ground on average.

Often, finding the right personnel is just as important to a philosophy as are the core ideas and concepts of the philosophy itself. That’s where Seattle has struggled, and where the common theme lies for these teams. Could the Ravens do what they do without Lamar Jackson, one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league? Would Dallas’ offense be as explosive without the pairing of Ezekiell Elliot and Dak Prescott? Nick Chubb has been stellar for the Browns, and Derrick Henry is, well, Derrick Henry. He’s one of one. And don’t forget about the big guys up front. Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith and guard Zack Martin have two of the highest grades league-wide from Pro Football Focus, while the Browns entered the season with the league’s best O-line (the same O-line that helped a third-string running back to 146 yards in his first ever start).

Here’s another issue: running when it’s working is fine, but what do you do when it’s not working? I think this is where some fan frustration lies. When Seattle can’t attack on the ground, how often does the offense turn to the weapons it has in Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett?

What’s the latest with Dee Eskridge?

Eskridge is eligible to return from the injured reserve this week, but it’s unclear right now whether he’ll play against Jacksonville. Reporters did finally get an update, though.

On Wednesday, Carroll said Eskridge will be back in the facility after spending some time rehabilitating in Florida.

“He did have some issues from the concussion that he had, some visual things that he was working on. That’s what he’s been focusing on,” Carroll said.

“I know that the reports are coming out that he’s in great shape and is ready to go. I don’t know what that means until we get him out on the field.”

@tomrollman: If Seattle moves on from Pete Carroll as everyone seems to want them to, who is out there that is better? 

I understand the current critique of this team under Carroll’s direction and it’s certainly possible that another coach could better tap into Seattle’s resources. But it’s also not guaranteed, which makes this a difficult conversation.

As far as head coaching candidates for 2022, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is a favorite for a gig, while former Jets head coach and current Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles may also find his name in the search pool. For every promising candidate, though, there’s always an Adam Gase or a Jim Mora. A change at the top doesn’t always mean a change for the better.

You, as a fan, may feel Carroll isn’t the right fit for your favorite team. You’re perfectly entitled to believe so! And quite honestly, you could build your case supporting either decision.

On the one hand, Carroll is the winningest coach in Seahawks history and has overseen some of its most talented rosters. He brought this city its first Super Bowl and coached the team to a 12-win season last year and an 11-win season the year before that.

On the other, his is a team that hasn’t seen a ton of postseason success post-2015, a team that has struggled to modernize its play-calling, and a team that has slipped from the top of the league defensively to the bottom, despite having a defensive-minded head coach at the helm and having used multiple early-round picks on defense. Who bears the greatest responsibility for all of it? Perhaps more importantly, is it fixable?

Rather than tell you what to do here or which coach would be a fit, I’d just say that this is a decision for which I’d caution care. With a regime change comes more than just a change in the coaching ranks. There are countless jobs behind the scenes that can be impacted by a change at the top. If the ends justify the means – that is, if the result is getting this team to a Super Bowl – then that might be worth it to players and fans. But there are real people behind every decision.

@steven_McGinley: Do we trade Russell at the end of this year?

A franchise quarterback might be the hardest asset to find in football. Just ask the Jets or the Bears about their decades-long search. Or the teams who spent first-round picks on Jared Goff, Mitch Trubisky, Josh Rosen, Carson Wentz, Johnny Manziel, Dwayne Haskins, Paxton Lynch, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, E.J. Manuel, and Blaine Gabbert. Or a team like the 49ers, who acquired their franchise star, Jimmy Garoppolo, via trade before watching him be sidelined by injury year after year. To date, Garoppolo has just a single season of more than six starts, and the 49ers are already moving on with a first-round rookie.

Even teams who find their franchise player may not have him for years. Take the Panthers, who found a future MVP in Cam Newton when they drafted him first overall in 2011. But inconsistent play and injuries took their toll on the former star, who today is a free agent.

Wilson has been a model of consistency for Seattle for the last 10 years, holding numerous franchise records, including career completion percentage, career passing yards, and career touchdowns. If Seattle is set on a complete tear down, then both the Seahawks and Wilson may be open to a fresh start for 2022. But neither team nor quarterback has to be set on the move; Wilson will be 33 next year and still in his prime.

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