Salk: Truths are being hammered home by Seahawks’ losing streak

Dec 12, 2023, 12:02 AM | Updated: 11:10 am

Seattle Seahawks 49ers...

The Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers get into an altercation during a Dec. 10, 2023 game. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks don’t look right. Not by any measure. And the more times we watch them struggle, the more it seems like we are asking the same questions over and over again.

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Why aren’t they communicating better? Why are they getting beat deep? Why aren’t they more physical? What’s with the tackling? Is it the scheme, the talent or the coaching and execution?

Sound familiar?

It should. And it seemed like all of those questions and the problems associated with them were fully on display this past weekend in Santa Clara.

The 28-16 loss to the 49ers was rough. And yet, watching that game was clarifying. Seeing the Seahawks against the league’s best for the second time in three weeks allowed us to see how wide the gap is between them.

It manifested in three major ways.

1. The Seattle Seahawks aren’t sure of the offense they want.

Sure, we’ve discussed this for years, but the point was really hammered home by watching the juxtaposition with the Niners. The San Francisco offense is a thing of beauty – as potent as any we’ve seen in recent years. And unlike The Greatest Show on Turf or the high-flying Chiefs attack, it doesn’t have a surefire Hall of Famer triggering each pass.

Instead, it is successful because everyone in it fits a specific and complementary role.

The 49ers know they want to build everything off the run game, so they have a powerful and athletic offensive line, a tremendous blocking tight end and one of the best runners in the game. They know they want to use multiple formations, so they acquired a running back who can line up outside and they drafted a receiver who can run it from the backfield (or anywhere else). When they added an accurate quarterback who gets rid of the ball quickly and makes good decisions, everything took off.

Contrast that to what was on the field for Seattle.

The Seahawks’ offense has some really talented players, but they don’t seem to fit together nearly as well as the ones in San Francisco. Do they want to be a physical, running football team? If so, use those big tight ends and don’t draft a wide receiver in the first round. Do they want to spread it out in 11 personnel and throw it? If so, don’t pay Will Dissly what you’ve paid him and draft running backs with consecutive second-round picks.

There has been plenty of criticism leveled at Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron this year, and he may deserve it. But I also think he is in a tough position. Before you can get frustrated with the play calling or even the creativity, you need to decide what type of team you are, and the Seahawks have been sending mixed messages on that front.

2. This team has lost its composure.

This one is tough to write but it has been true all too often this season. And it has now happened during play, after the whistle, and off the field.

It seems like every week we have heard something like what Pete Carroll said to me on Monday:

“We gave them opportunities. Those are all things that we practice and those are all things that we see,” he said. “And then when the moment came for the guy who had the opportunity, we didn’t execute well.”

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That came after he expressed his frustration with the three big plays that led to 49ers touchdowns coming off of defensive mistakes.

We can all understand that the Niners put everyone in a bind, but you have to keep your composure to not allow them the easy ones.

The post-whistle problems have certainly been led by DK Metcalf, who had all kinds of issues earlier this season and was ejected from Sunday’s game after touching off a (sort-of) melee. Whether he was baited into it or not, the scene was embarrassing and it looked like the group had lost its collective cool.

We’ve seen Seahawks players show frustration in this manner before (that list starts with Michael Bennett), but the contrast of their immaturity on the field with the Niners’ Fred Warner and others celebrating with the crowd made it seem all the more juvenile. It looked like one of these organizations was in total control while the other was falling apart. And it made me reflect back on DK’s comments last month that he wasn’t going to change his style because of a penalty board.

All of this comes on the heels of Jamal Adams’s ill-advised escalation of his long-running feud with a New York reporter. I thought Adams was way out of bounds to bring someone’s spouse into the public eye. It was immature at best (and sexist at worst) to disparage her looks and insinuate that the writer’s value was tied to his wife’s appearance (hat tip to Maura Dooley for that insight). But to then pass on apologizing only to say ,“When others go low, I go lower?” Who went low?!? The writer criticized his play on the field, which should be totally in bounds for a professional athlete. The reaction was bad, the decision making was worse, and the explanation failed in spectacular fashion.

None of these types of incidents or issues are unique to the Seahawks, but to see them strung together over the course of the season presents an ugly pattern. This team is playing without discipline, carrying that with them off the field, and then refusing to accept accountability when that is what’s necessary.

3. The Seahawks need to draft (or find) their next franchise QB.

Geno Smith has done an excellent job, surprising the world and maximizing his opportunity since he won the job before last season. He did enough to earn the contract he received and he may be a capable starter in this league. But if this year has been a long audition for the permanent gig, it’s hard to see how he’s locked in his spot.

By virtually every metric, his play has regressed. He does have a few late-game drives to his credit, but they have been overshadowed by rough endings in Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Dallas. And after staying completely healthy in 2022, he is dealing with his third issue this season. At age 34 next year, his speed will continue to decline and he’ll likely be more subject to injury.

He has also been inconsistent this season. While he still makes some of jaw-dropping throws, they have come with more turnovers, more mistakes, more issues with pre-snap recognition, and more problems with communication.

Geno is capable of playing quarterback at a high level in the NFL. But can he get others around him to play that way? This year, he’s been unable to lead his offense through the challenges thrown their way.

As for Drew Lock, who started in the injured Smith’s place Sunday, I have seen nothing that tells me he is a future starter. Lock clearly has talent – a rocket arm and great mobility. But the knock on him coming out of Denver was his poor decision making and high propensity for turnovers. Based on what we saw in his first start (plus training camps and preseason games), that hasn’t changed.

Lock threw two picks (plus another that was called back), and two more throws bounced off defenders’ hands. Couple that with a throw that was egregiously in front of the line of scrimmage and it is hard to imagine how he would be someone to build a future around.

This is a good quarterback class. It’s time to draft the future.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Rost: Three words that underline the state of Seahawks’ season
Seahawks Injury Updates: Latest on Geno Smith, Devon Witherspoon
What’s to make of Drew Lock playing solid in first Seahawks start?
Instant Reaction: Seattle Seahawks’ skid hits four with loss to 49ers
Tempers flare on the field between Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers

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