MIKE SALK

Salk on Seahawks: What Carroll’s answer to QB question really said

Nov 7, 2023, 6:51 PM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

In 13 years of observing Pete Carroll as the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, I can’t imagine how many different words I’ve used to describe him – and that doesn’t include some of the (mostly disparaging) things I said about him when he coached the Patriots or the doubt cast when he was at USC.

Pete is a complicated person and, as I’ve come to realize over time, a tremendous coach.

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We have spent so much time outlining his penchant for building culture, his dedication to his philosophical view on a balanced attack, and his relentless positivity. But one quality we probably overlook is his patience. Pete isn’t beyond making changes, but by and large, he tends to give a long leash before doing so.

All of that is a long way of saying that I don’t see Pete making an abrupt change at the quarterback position.

No, Geno Smith has not played well this season, and his play hasn’t been worthy of a team with designs on advancing beyond their first-round playoff exit of last season. But whereas it’s easy for those outside of the Seahawks’ building to have a hair trigger, Pete tends to view a broader picture and has more patience than most.

With all that being said, I was admittedly shocked that Pete answered a question on Monday about what it would take for him to make an in-season change at the quarterback position.

As I was asking the question, I was fully expecting him to dismiss it out of hand. I expected him to tell me that wasn’t relevant and that they were nowhere close to that conversation. Which would have been fine. Sometimes you ask questions in an interview assuming they won’t get much of a response. But when he chose to offer a thoughtful answer, I took that as meaningful.

His answer in no way suggested he is anywhere close to making a change. He said it would be “obvious” if that was ever necessary and spent the rest of the time pointing out the issues the team is having in play calling, protection, and communication. Those are all ways of pointing to everyone except Geno as the culprit.

How serious are those problems? When it comes to scheme and play calling, I trust the folks who played and observe the game at a high level, and Brock Huard was among many who were unimpressed with the offensive gameplan in Baltimore. The Seahawks need to find ways to utilize Geno’s strengths: play-action and intermediate accuracy. The plan unfortunately didn’t do that.

Of course, it’s never that simple. If you, me and Brock all know that the plan was missing something obvious, it stands to reason that the smart people who have created successful gameplans in the past recognize the same thing. So why didn’t we see more? Well, it’s hard to run much play-action when the running game gets stuffed. It’s hard to do much of anything when the offensive line is getting blown off the ball. And that brings us to Pete’s concern with protection. If the offensive line isn’t doing its job, it becomes really hard for the quarterback to do his.

The debate over protection, scheme and quarterback play has raged (and will rage on) forever. But I found myself lingering on the last issue Pete raised: communication. Often, we think of this as the quarterback’s responsibility along with the center. They need to call out protections, recognize blitzing players and play with synchronicity. But they aren’t the only ones asked to communicate on the field. Wide receivers have an enormous responsibility to read coverages, change their routes accordingly, and communicate those changes with each other.

I don’t think it’s an accident that Pete pointed to the challenges of having Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf miss practices over the past few weeks, not only because of their timing with Geno, but because of their influence on teaching the younger receivers how to communicate.

Let’s remember, the other receivers are rookies with a combined 16 games and 39 receptions to their names. We’ve heard explanations that both Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jake Bobo have made mistakes that have led to interceptions. Would it be shocking if those have extended beyond those disastrous results or have led to some of the hesitancy we’ve seen from Geno?

The Seahawks came into the season with an average age of 25.5 years old. That is the fifth-youngest roster in the league, and of the four younger rosters, three are below .500 and generally not in the conversation for a playoff appearance. And it’s not just the average age, it’s the number of rookies and second-year players that are in important positions. That youth has some serious advantages. It makes the Seahawks fast and gives us all kinds of hope for the future. But it also comes at a cost – most likely that involves mistakes of inexperience.

That shouldn’t be taken as a sign to reduce the playing time for the young guys. In fact, they need to get the experience now so that they can learn. But as a coach is evaluating the play of his quarterback, these factors might play a much bigger role than any of us could know.

I don’t think Pete is ready to make a change, and I don’t know how “obvious” Geno will make it. He is a veteran and generally capable. He is unlikely to totally stink up the joint and make mistakes that are 100% his fault. And as long as his team is in the thick of a playoff hunt, it’s hard for me to imagine a coach that takes a broad view and doesn’t react to the most immediate thing he’s seen changing horses.

Pete says he has to “help” his quarterback by putting him in the best situation to succeed. That may very well buy Geno some time as there are bigger issues to fix. But sooner or later, the responsibility always seems to fall on the guy under center.

While it may not be time to make an immediate change on the field, you have to imagine the evaluation for the offseason is getting a lot more interesting.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Video – Wyman’s Football 101: Why couldn’t Seahawks stop the run vs Ravens?
Seahawks have missed chances to prove they’re among NFL’s best
The Next Day: Should Seattle Seahawks fans hit panic button?
What They Said: Seahawks talk blowout defeat in Baltimore
Instant Reaction: Why were Seattle Seahawks decimated by Ravens 37-3?

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