Lefko: Seahawks leap into unknown with bold yet necessary step

Jan 11, 2024, 12:51 AM

Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll...

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll during a game against Carolina on Sept. 24, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It was time. Pete Carroll is the greatest coach in Seattle Seahawks history, woven into the fabric of who they have been as a team during his 14 seasons at the helm. He was a symbol of remarkable unprecedented stability and success, an elusive elixir that all but a few franchises chase for years and years.

Yet, it was time.

Who will be the next Seahawks coach? Huard, Bumpus weigh in

Success is indeed a blessing and a curse. It led to a stretch of winning (and more importantly no wretched years) that was the envy of the league. Pete Carroll never had fewer than seven wins in a season. There is a myriad of fan bases that can’t even fathom what a run of consistency like that looks like.

Nevertheless, that success leads to increasingly high expectations. The Seahawks began to gradually slip, first from great to good, and then from good to mediocre. And, as you might know, the worst thing to be in the NFL is mediocre.

Defense, the stalwart and lasting image of the consecutive Super Bowl appearances Carroll led Seattle to, has been in a steady decline since 2017. The Athletic noted that the Seahawks’ defensive EPA has gotten worse each season since 2013, hovering in the mid-teens in 2017 and plummeting to 29th this year. Rudimentary stats paint the picture as well: the Seahawks ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed in 2022 and 31st this season. Not to pile on, but that’s in addition to the pass defense allowing the second-most yards in the NFL in both 2020 and 2021.

Still, despite all of that, it felt like Carroll had earned the right to go out on his own terms. Brock Huard put out a stat that showcases the chasm the Seahawks had opened between stability and continual chaos – in Carroll’s 14 seasons as Seahawks head coach, there have been 122 different head coaches across the NFL.

It is exceedingly rare that a coach gets to fully dictate his own exit, but with just a year left on his contract, this felt like one of those cases.

It does take remarkable class and character to handle this exit like Carroll did. Time is harsher on legends. The traits that helped them reach the pinnacle also blind them to when it is time to let go. We’ve seen it across all sports, from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to Jim Boeheim and Gregg Popovich, and the current dynamics at play with Bill Belichick. It is increasingly difficult for both sides to extricate themselves without bitterness and animosity coming out. And yes, you could tell Pete Carroll has more fight left in him – he said so during his final press conference. But it’s also telling that he did a final press conference.

The embodiment of why Carroll has won at every level came out in his last 35 minutes of speaking as the man who represented the Seahawks for 14 seasons. It was emotional, thankful, vigorous, and poignant. He leaves as a beloved icon of the franchise and the city of Seattle.

What comes next

Pete Carroll’s goodbye adds another layer of pressure onto the shoulders of whomever is named his successor. There is an old adage in sports: “You never want to be the guy who follows the guy” – and that’s especially true when that guy rarely endured a rough patch while presiding over the greatest stretch in franchise history.

There will be immense pressure for immediate results and tangible improvement. We’re in an era of microscopic scrutiny, and the proliferation of digital media and connectivity has led to increasingly less leeway for coaches to turn around a team.

The Seahawks have never faced this pressure cooker when hiring a coach. It was relative obscurity back in 2010, especially because Carroll had the benefit of the Jim Mora Buffer™ between him and Mike Holmgren. Long-term stability is not the norm. No team, save for the Steelers, has been able to channel the smooth and sustainable coaching transition without enduring a period of substandard football.

It was time to move on, but these are the stakes and the great leap into the unknown that await the Seahawks. Moving on from Pete Carroll might be what gets them back to the Super Bowl in the near future, unless it takes them down a path with long, dark days ahead.

More on Pete Carroll out as Seattle Seahawks coach

Carroll explains why he’s no longer the Seattle Seahawks coach
Former Seahawks, others in sports world react to Pete Carroll news
What They Said: Seattle Sports’ voices on Pete Carroll out
Pete Carroll out as Seahawks coach: Bump and Stacy’s live reaction
What Carroll said after being removed as Seattle Seahawks coach

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