Why would Carroll choose not to change Seahawks’ offensive philosophy?
The Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson, yet throughout Wilson’s eight-year career, he hasn’t been as much of a focal point of the team’s offense as other top quarterbacks are for their respective teams.
Chris Simms of NBC Sports, who is a former NFL quarterback, ranked Wilson as the second best quarterback in the NFL heading into 2020. He also said that Wilson might be the most important quarterback in term’s of impacting their team’s success because Seattle’s offense can be “stupid” by running the ball too much and making Wilson have to pull off heroics late in games.
The amount of running that the Seahawks do comes from head coach Pete Carroll, who has shown an affinity for having a tough ground game that helps set up deep play-action passes. Seattle has had one of the better rushing offenses throughout most of Carroll’s tenure in Seattle.
But with Wilson in his prime at 31 and coming off an MVP caliber year, should the offense change more to have Wilson be more of a factor? And if not, why would that be the case? That was the topic of conversation that Stacy Rost and Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy had on Friday.
“He also knows football, clearly. He’s one of three coaches ever to win a National Championship and a Super Bowl,” Rost said of Carroll. “He clearly knows how to win and he knows Russell Wilson is talented – this is obvious – but, I think we’d all describe Seattle’s last two years as being a really high floor and a lower ceiling than some of the top-tier teams. And in that I mean you’re almost always going to be in the game … you’re probably always going to be in the playoffs at least, but it’s been six or seven years since they’ve been to a championship.”
Wilson has been a very good quarterback since he entered the league in 2012, and he and the Seahawks haven’t made a Super Bowl or NFC Championship since the 2014 season. In 2018 and 2019, however, was when Wilson really showed he should be in consideration for the best quarterback in football.
But even with Wilson’s ascent, the team still implemented a lot of rushing on offense with Chris Carson. Heaps explained that it’s likely a comfort thing for Carroll.
“I want to break this down because I think Chris brings up a good point here (with) him going to as far as saying that ‘I just think it’s flat out stupid.’ I don’t think it’s stupid, I just think it’s a conscious decision by Pete Carroll because as you said, Stacy, it is a conservative philosophy that he knows equals a good amount of wins,” he said. “And it has been a proven philosophy for him over 10 years and I think both things can be true, Stacy. I think you can have a conservative approach that can allow you to generate a formula that allows you to get into the playoffs, into the dance, and yet over the last couple seasons in particular your philosophy leaves room for you to leave meat on the table. And what I mean by that is opportunities, to leave opportunities on the table.”
Heaps went on to say that with Wilson, the Seahawks need to have more trust in him to dictate things offensively, which they haven’t full embraced.
“Trust your quarterback to keep putting you in the right positions but still stay aggressive and put the ball in his hands and allow him to control things and control the game and the tempo and the flow that way you guys don’t have to wait until the fourth quarter or the final two minutes of the game or the second half for you to come back from being down 10 points in a game,” he said.
Rost noted that Carroll is a winner, but he “chooses to win his way.” But part of “his way” has often been a strong running game that works in part because you have a great defense that you can keep fresh by milking the clock more with running the ball. The Seahawks don’t have a great defense anymore, however, and that could mean a change in philosophy is necessary. But does that mean the 68-year-old Carroll will embrace change?
“Clearly what he feels the sacrifices in changing his philosophy outweighs any gains he would make,” Rost said. “He also clearly thinks he can win with his philosophy. So what would you be sacrificing by changing it? Is it ball control? Is it time of possession?”
“I think you just said it. Ball control, the risk of more turnovers, time of possession on the clock, and also keeping your defense out on the field for potentially too long and them wearing down when you already have a group on defense that isn’t very good to begin with,” Heaps responded.
Heaps also said to observers, it’s often easy to point to just one thing for why something needs changed on offense or defense. It’s not always that easy.
“We can get comfortable and we can get caught in the trap of ‘well, it didn’t work out because of X, Y and Z’ rather than saying ‘you know what, there’s a tweak to my approach we can take here and I’ll allow it to match the strength of my team,'” Heaps said. “And I think that’s what the Seahawks are at war with themselves at and I honestly believe this. I honestly believe that Pete Carroll has every intention and every good nature about him to let Russell Wilson open things up and become his version of himself and show that he can really take over the reins of the offense and the team, but then when push comes to shove, he comes back to that conservative nature. He wants to keep things close and comfortable to him and rightfully so. It’s worked out exceptionally well for him.”
But while it worked out well six or seven years ago, in terms of making it past the divisional round of the playoffs, the Seahawks have been unable to do that recently. Heaps said even the best coaches have embraced tremendous change.
“When it comes to the ultimate goal of continuing to progress and get deeper into the playoffs and ultimately get to a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl, sometimes you have to make those tweaks just like you saw Bill Belichick do in the midway point of his run with the New England Patriots and Tom Brady,” he said. “I think that there’s room for his philosophy to ring true and yet adjust that and tweak that just a little bit to … put the ball in your best player’s hand and allow him to control the game.”
But will the Seahawks chance their approach on offense to have Wilson more involved in 2020 than past years?
“They’re not going to become the Chiefs, but I think they are making a more concerted effort to try and make this happen,” Heaps said. “Now has there been pushes and prods by the quarterback of this team along the way to try and move this thing along? I probably would say so, yes. So I think this is something where you look at and when you talk about relationships and talk about winning teams and formula, when you have your quarterback and your coach on the same wavelength and they’re pushing one another and they’re operating at the same level, I think that’s when you see truly great success.”
Listen to the first hour of Friday’s Tom, Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.