Pete Carroll: Seahawks don’t need to ‘restart this whole thing’
To call the Seahawks’ 2021 season a disappointment would be quite the understatement.
After setting franchise records on offense and winning 12 games on the way to an NFC West title in 2020, the Seahawks entered 2021 with high expectations after adding notable names in free agency and hiring a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron, who was expected to help take the offense to even new heights.
But Seattle dropped two of its first three games to kick off the season, and in Week 5, star quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a finger injury that cost him three games and would greatly impact him upon his return.
The season reached a new low Sunday. The Seahawks blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead to a Bears team led by third-string quarterback Nick Foles, and Chicago won 25-24 after a late touchdown and successful 2-point conversion with 1:01 left to play.
With that latest loss, the Seahawks are 5-10 with two games left and have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. It’s just the third time in Carroll’s 12 seasons as Seahawks head coach and the second time in Wilson’s career that the team has missed the playoffs. It’s also the first losing season in Wilson’s NFL career, which started in 2012.
With the Seahawks in their current position, there’s naturally some reflection ongoing, and that reflection is being used to look ahead to what’s next.
Carroll told Salk that he was very optimistic about his team and roster heading into the season but that things haven’t worked out for a number of reasons. The Seahawks are also in the NFL’s toughest division in the NFC West, which Carroll described as loaded with talent.
As far as how the Seahawks’ season has gone, Carroll said he doesn’t have any regrets in terms of wishing he could have done things differently, even when looking back on Wilson returning four weeks after finger surgery that had an estimated 4-8 week recovery time.
“The question would be ‘Did you bring Russ back too soon?’ … But he was ready to go,” Carroll said. “We were going on what we knew and I wouldn’t have changed that. He did an extraordinary, remarkable thing there to get that done, and we went with it and tried to ride the flow of that and hoped we would play well around him and help him out. I don’t think we did. We didn’t get that done. We weren’t as strong around him as we needed to be.”
When asked about what the future of the Seahawks looks like, Carroll said that would be addressed once the season concludes in two weeks.
“We’ll figure out where we have to go to help us,” Carroll said. “We’ve got young people, young players that are helping us and on the come up and growing. We’ve got to complement those with others.”
Carroll also was asked about his confidence level in the Seahawks going into next season.
First, Carroll said that the Seahawks must add more talent that can “help us make the difference.” He also made it clear that they’ve got to get healthier. Then, Carroll pointed to Wilson.
“The quarterback position with Russ having to deal with what he’s dealt with, which most players could not have handled the way he did, we’ve got to see how he bounces back,” he said. “He will certainly be great again. He’s going to be a great player. I don’t feel like it shows right now, but I think that’s what’s going to happen because he’s got it in him to do that. So we build around those factors and all of the pluses that we can generate.”
Carroll noted the team will have a lot of decisions to make with pending free agents, which will be assessed later, but he sees a lot of positives with the team’s roster despite its poor record.
With the Seahawks in their current position, questions naturally start to swirl regarding the futures for Carroll, Wilson and general manager John Schneider, as well as whether the team needs to rebuild and start over regardless of who is head coach. Carroll, who is under contract through 2025, doesn’t think that the Seahawks need to go down that path.
“Not for one reason at all am I thinking that we have to restart this whole thing and create a new philosophy and a new approach and all that. I don’t think that,” Carroll said. “I think we’ve got the essence of the things that we need. We’ve got to build on them, we’ve got to support it better, and we’ve got to continue to grow and progress. There’s no standing still, but there’s the foundation for doing things.”
In terms of specific aspects he thinks the Seahawks can grow upon, Carroll pointed to two position groups on defense. The first was the pass rush, which has been better of late with veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap recording five sacks in the last two games.
“The pass rush is a big issue. It’s a big, big issue for us and it’s been something that hasn’t been a formidable part (of our defense),” Carroll said. “What that means is we’re not getting to the quarterback enough to cause the problems that (causes quarterbacks to) give us the football and we’ve not turned the ball over (enough). It starts there with the rush, and you can see that needs to continue to be improved. I think that’s really obvious, so we’ve got to work hard at it.”
Carroll said 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor, who has six sacks in his first season, “is doing a nice job.” He also said the Seahawks are counting on second-year defensive end Alton Robinson being more of a factor going forward. Rasheem Green, who is tied with Dunlap for the team lead in sacks with 6.5, has been “a factor” while Dunlap has “picked up” of late.
“So there’s factors in there,” Carroll said. “Somebody has to provide that for us and we’ve got to get a spark, we’ve got to get that thing going.”
The other position group Carroll highlighted is cornerback, which was a huge question mark this offseason and early in the season.
D.J. Reed, who has missed the last two weeks due to COVID-19, has been a solid starter for the second year in a row. Rookie Tre Brown started opposite him and played well for a few weeks before a season-ending knee injury. Sidney Jones has started a number of games and Bless Austin and John Reid have played more of late as well due to other players dealing with injuries and illness.
Reed and Jones are pending unrestricted free agents, Austin is a pending restricted free agent, and Reid will be an exclusive rights free agent. Brown is on his rookie deal and is signed for three more seasons.
“I think we’re gonna be good there at that spot going forward,” Carroll said. “We’ve got playmakers a little bit different than the format that we were featuring earlier (in my Seahawks tenure) with bigger guys, but these guys have been playing good football. I can’t wait to get D.J. Reed back on the field and getting back out there and continue to grow with it. Sidney’s played good, did a nice job. Tre Brown did a nice job. We’re excited about those guys coming back and battling again.”
The Seahawks have their final home game of the year next Sunday against the 2-12-1 Detroit Lions before finishing the year in Arizona against the Cardinals.
Normally, the Seahawks are playing to clinch the playoffs or secure higher postseason seeding at this stage of the season. So with Seattle eliminated from playoff contention, will anything be different in these final two weeks?
“No, we’ll play to win,” Carroll said. “We’ll play to win the games. That’s it.”
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