Seahawks notebook: Uncomfortable truths from 2021 and Carroll’s candor

Mar 4, 2022, 9:03 AM

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson...

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks throws the ball as head coach Pete Carroll looks on during warm-ups before the game against the Arizona Cardinals. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Russell Wilson can’t bail you out. The defense needs a serious makeover. You don’t have the best – or second-best – roster in your own division, much less in the NFL. All are uncomfortable truths for the Seahawks that, to be frank, were already dawning in the 2020 season and earlier. But all three were more pronounced than ever in Seattle’s lackluster 2021 campaign.

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Wilson, Seattle’s longtime star quarterback, enters an offseason with more questions surrounding him than ever.

Some of the doubt feels unearned; rather, a reaction to his now-infamous comments in the 2020 offseason during an interview with the Dan Patrick Show, or criticism devoid of the context of a midseason surgery to his throwing hand.

However, other critiques are fair. Long before breaking his finger in 2021, Wilson stumbled through the second half of the 2020 season, throwing seven interceptions from Week 9 onward. His 2021 season was the lowest-graded year of his career, per Pro Football Focus.

Even with his struggles, Wilson remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league – rampant trade speculation would tell you as much – but last year, he wasn’t able to keep the Seahawks from digging the hole deeper, and in at least one outing (a dull shutout against Green Bay) was the one holding the shovel.

There are, of course, many quarterbacks who didn’t will their team’s way to the playoffs. San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo was far from the best single performer in the 49ers’ trip to the NFC championship game. But he was also part of a team with seven Pro Bowlers and two First-Team All-Pros. Also in the West are the Rams, with three First-Team All-Pros and two of the league’s very best players in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

The Seahawks have talent with Wilson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams and others, but also a roster that isn’t as deep as two of their biggest NFC West foes.

But even when Wilson played like, well, Wilson, and even with contributions from its biggest stars, the Seahawks’ defensive struggles against the pass left it near the bottom of the league for a second consecutive year. The defense ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game (265.5) and finished with just 18 takeaways, better than just seven other teams and certainly not up to the standard of a Pete Carroll-led defensive unit. A makeover is needed, and Carroll implied as much during his interview at the NFL’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Before moving onto Carroll’s comments and the reaction from national writer Sheil Kapadia (who prompted the response with a question about two-high safety looks) it’s worth nothing this: The silver lining for Seattle is that while those three hard truths create obstacles to overcome, there are positives that remain true for the Seahawks in 2022. Wilson, Wagner, Lockett, Metcalf, Adams and several other veterans remain under contract. They saw solid play from promising young defenders Darrell Taylor and Jordyn Brooks. And finally, the Seahawks are entering the offseason with the eighth-most cap space of any team.

Candor at the combine

“I’ve never heard Pete Carroll really talk like that,” Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic told Jake and Stacy Thursday when asked about the head coach’s comments from the NFL Scouting Combine.

The day prior, Kapadia asked Carroll whether the defensive adjustments would include more two-high safety shells, prompting a candid response that saw Carroll’s say the Seahawks have been “arrogant” with the way they play defense.

Carroll gives ‘statement of leadership’ by admitting Hawks’ arrogance

“We feel like we need to do everything,” Carroll said. “We need to do our single-high stuff and our two-high stuff to mix that and do a really nice job of that. Sean (Desai) and Karl (Scott) both bring a wide breadth of experience to help us with our looks and disguises and to make it as intricate as we can and as difficult as we can on the quarterback. I’ll tell you, we’ve been a little bit arrogant over the years, the way we play defense, because we’ve been able to do it and just go ahead and play what we want to play. It’s not that time right now. It’s time to keep moving and keep growing. And we’ve played the running game so well… maybe that’s not the only thing we need to do well.”

We can guess what Carroll means, but how did Kapadia interpret it?

“That to me means this isn’t just little tweaks here and there from what we’ve seen from that Seahawks defense,” Kapadia said. “This seems more like they feel like they need to implement significant changes defensively with these new coaches and get better.”

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Seahawks notebook: Uncomfortable truths from 2021 and Carroll’s candor