Huard: Stat that helped Seahawks to playoffs exposed a Pete Carroll misconception
Jul 17, 2023, 1:22 AM
(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Most people outside of the most ardent believers in Pete Carroll’s coaching ability didn’t foresee the Seattle Seahawks making the playoffs last season.
We’ve had six months to look into the reasons the Hawks avoided a full-scale rebuild and finished 9-8 to make the postseason in their first year after moving on from former franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. But on a recent addition of Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, former NFL QB and current FOX football analyst Brock Huard pointed to something that may be the most convincing reason yet.
Huard saw this tweet from NFL analyst Warren Sharp, who contributes to The Ringer, FOX, SportsGrid and his own Sharp Football Analysis, that pointed out how last year’s teams ranked in terms of chunk plays (offensive plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more):
offensive plays that gained 20+ yards last year:
83 – KC*
80 – PHI*
75 – SF*
72 – MIA*
71 – BUF*
70 – JAX*
69 – DET
68 – SEA*
67 – LV, NE, DAL*
65 – GB, CLE
64 – CAR
62 – HOU, DEN
61 – CIN*
58 – NYJ, CHI
56 – LAC*
55 – MIN*
54 – WAS, TEN,…
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 10, 2023
So why did this jump out so much to Huard?
“It was about as direct a correlation as I’ve ever seen to playoff teams,” Huard told his co-host, Mike Salk.
Huard said a few other numbers are usually indicative in a similar way, such as turnover differential, sacks and quarterback play. But the rankings of chunk plays from 2022 seemed to correlate pretty exactly at the top.
“Who led the league? The world champs, the Chiefs, had 83. Who was second in the league? Philadelphia Eagles, they had 80. Who was third in the league? San Francisco, they had 75.”
The Seattle Seahawks ranking eighth especially spoke to Huard in a couple of meaningful ways.
“I think I could land on a pretty darn strong argument and say the single biggest stat and reason why the Seahawks last year did something nobody saw coming was because of those explosive plays,” he said. “Geno Smith had a lot to do with it. DK (Metcalf), Tyler (Lockett), Ken Walker – you had explosive pieces and personnel to do it, but the fact is they went out there and did it.”
And that leads to Huard’s second big point.
What big misconception about Pete Carroll was proven wrong?
During his tenure with the Seahawks, Carroll has generally been seen as defensive-minded head coach with conservative offensive philosophies. But as Huard explained, chunk plays have always been important to Carroll’s style of play, something he showed during his successful run with USC prior to come to Seattle, and something he shares with another legendary NFL coach.
“It’s one of the largest misconceptions of Pete, because Pete is not just ‘play it safe,’ Marty Schottenheimer ‘Marty Ball.’ That’s not who he is,” Huard said. “Many of these defensive coordinators of the past that then get elevated to head coach – (New England’s Bill) Belichick’s the same way as Pete – they have a defensive optics to their life, but they understand the need for explosive offense. Pete did it for 10 years at SC better than anybody in college football on that run, and he’s come here and go look at his explosive play numbers. He doesn’t just want to pound the ball and run the ball and play it safe and play conservative. You run the ball to throw it – and throw explosive haymakers – and they did it last year.”
The Seahawks will have additional offensive weapons this year in two rookies – first-round wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and second-round running back Zach Charbonnet – and Huard believes that chunk plays will be just as important to their postseason hopes in 2023 as they were last season.
“If they do that again this year at that kind of level, if they’re top five, six, seven in the league (in chunk plays) with Jaxon and certainly Charbonnet and his explosiveness – and you would think they should be – they will be a playoff team once again.”
Listen to a podcast of the full conversation from the Blue 88 segment of Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this post.
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