BY Art Thiel 05:54PM 02/02/2017

Thiel: Seahawks beat ATL and Pats, but so what?

The Seahawks were good enough to beat both Super Bowl entrants, but imploded physically and emotionally over the season’s second half. Richard Sherman was in the middle of all of it. Is it time for a big change?

The Seahawks came close to QB Matt Ryan, just not quite fast enough. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

In honor of Fake News Month/Year/Decade, I declare the Seattle Seahawks champions of the National Football League, because they were the only ones to beat both the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots this season. Those teams are playing the Super Bowl Sunday in Houston for no reason. Sad!

See? Alternative facts aren’t so bad, after all. Hey, the sports world already has a big investment in fantasy football, so what’s stopping this fantasy?

Rules?

Oh. I thought we were done with stuff like that.

Well then . . .

There’s no getting around the truth that the Seahawks beat the Falcons Oct. 16 at the Clink, 26-24. On Nov. 13, the Seahawks traveled to Foxborough and beat the Pats 31-24, their only loss this season when QB Tom Brady wasn’t locked in Commissioner Roger Goodell stocks in the public square for crimes against footballs.

In hindsight, the triumphs over Sunday’s teams only add to the aggravation of Seahawks fans after an 11-6-1 season. Seattle in 2016 had the talent and the plan to beat the best.

What they didn’t have throughout the season was good health and a commitment to doing the right thing.

The health was no mystery. Those two wins had one obvious thing in common: A robust FS Earl Thomas. In the game following the win over the Pats, Thomas broke his leg in a friendly-fire collision with SS Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks never recovered.

More than anyone else on defense, Thomas’s rare skills made him The Indispensable Man.

Other owies were many and varied, particularly the ankle, knee and pectoral injuries to Wilson that hampered him until the final month. The list is long, but one often overlooked is a sprained ankle by rookie RG Germain Ifedi that delayed his regular-season pro debut a month. No one with a future among the Seahawks needed more reps than Ifedi, who was a first-year bust.

Besides Thomas on defense, Chancellor and DE Michael Bennett missed games, and we learned after the season that CB Richard Sherman played the final half of season with an MCL sprain. The failure to disclose the injury until Pete Carroll’s final post-season presser is the subject of an NFL investigation that could cost the Seahawks a second-round draft choice.

Which brings us to doing the right thing.

While some will always say injuries are no excuse, that misses the point that they are legitimate reasons for substandard play, and that they are more or less unavoidable.

What was avoidable is the Carroll mistake with the non-disclosure, and more important, the handling of Sherman.

Something isn’t working between Sherman and Carroll when the player follows his disruptive outburst against coaches in the third quarter of the Falcons game with another one in December against the Rams.

Against the Falcons, a miscommunication with Chancellor’s injury replacement, Kelcie McCray, caused Sherman to rant against defensive coordinator Kris Richard, to the point where teammates had to surround Sherman to calm him down.

As a partial result, the distracted D allowed Atlanta consecutive drives of 75, 79 and 97 yards, all concluding with TD passes from QB Matt Ryan, turning a 17-3 halftime lead into a 24-17 deficit.

“He got really upset that we didn’t play something correctly,” Carroll said after the game. “We’re emotional guys, and we ride that emotion. I’m not surprised. When we get that hot, we have to control it better so we don’t get in the way of what’s coming up.

“I think there was some impact.”

By the time of the Pats’ triumph, which concluded with with a magnificent goal-line stand on New England’s final possession that flipped the narrative of the Super Bowl outcome between the teams, the Sherman episode seemed to be receding.

But he brought it back in mid-December, loudly complaining along the sideline to Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell about the playcalling from the one-yard line.

The episode didn’t have much impact on a game won by Seattle 24-3, but prompted a one-on-one meeting between Sherman, a critical figure in the locker room leadership, and Carroll, who said he heard enough contrition to avoid calling the episode insubordination. Sherman later was cranky with the media, but that was far secondary to disturbing Carroll’s long-held mantra to “protect the team.”

The day after the season ended, Carroll volunteered that he had “a big meeting” with Sherman.

“He has some regrets about this season, didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” Carroll said. “I just wanted to make sure we left on really good terms. We talk a lot. I talk with him all the time. I just wanted to make sure to touch base one more time because it was a difficult year for him.

“I admire how hard he worked at this thing and how he tried to handle it, When he made his mistakes, he was burdened by that. He had to work his way through it. He’s a good man. He’s trying to get everything right.”

Yet Sherman twice failed to do the right thing, nearly costing the Atlanta game.

Regarding injury, the Seahawks, having paid market value to their core players under the salary cap, had little money left for adequate backups.

Between the physical and the emotional, the Seahawks decayed from midseason to the point where they were only modest competition for the Falcons in a playoff rematch in the Georgia Dome, a 36-20 loss that easily could have been greater.

Sunday’s Super Bowl features teams that knocked Seattle from the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. As you watch, consider whether the Seahawks’ five-year run of 10-win playoffs is closer to the end than the middle of the Carroll-Schneider-Wilson empire.

If it’s closer to the end, what needs to happen is that salary cap room needs to be created to get deeper at multiple positions. That can mean moving highly paid players in their prime.

Not saying that Richard Sherman, 28, should be traded. He’s still a huge asset to the team. But the notion is worthy of consideration, especially at a $13.3 million salary for 2017.

Even after beating the Falcons and Patriots, it was a hard season, which has to inspire hard choices.

 


YourThoughts

  • Illuminati Doomsday

    Two arguments:
    1) He’s passionate about what he does so you have to overlook the outbursts.

    2) He is a bad teammate and his disruptions cause so much damage he is not worth it.

    I am going to go with passion and keep him. Rather have the Vincent Van Gogh of cornerbacks, even if he is overpriced, than trade him. He is cheap compared to NBA nobodies who make the same.

    Bob Hopkins ex Sonic coach: “Show me somebody who is not controversial and I will show you somebody who is not worth a damn”

    • John M

      So according to Hopkins’ theory, players like Willson, Avril, Wagner and Lockett are not good? I see nothing wrong with a pro that comes to work and does an outstanding job without going all prima donna . . .

      • art thiel

        It takes all kinds, John. Some personalities, you’re going to like, and you’re not going to like others. Carroll knows you have to have both to win.

        It’s a big part of his success.

    • art thiel

      Wow. A quote from Bob Hopkins. Well done.

      To Bob’s point, that’s why Carroll put up with a lot from Lynch. Athletic geniuses are like geniuses everywhere: The talent usually comes with baggage.

      • coug73

        “The talent usually comes with baggage”. I believe Lynch’s talent now is peddling a bicycle and playing the bagpipes.

    • LarryLurex70

      Nice. But, Seahawk fans – “12’s”, specifically – need to keep that one in mind while they’re busy crying about Cam Newton.

  • Angel Nanton

    No way is Sherman traded. The hole would be tremendous, because of the hole on side opposite Richard. It is not even conceivable. The strained MCL probably only added to his frustrations.
    No way is Chancellor traded. He is still a truly intimidating force. The hits he delivers are taking a toll however. I don’t believe Kenny Easley lasted as long as Cam, playing the same way as an enforcer.
    Much glad that Earl is coming back. Please, everyone in the Legion, keep an eye on Chancellor, he has taken out Sherman’s elbow, and now Earls leg. Accidents from a dark place.
    Now find someone, the next young Revis, he is out there, somewhere. We have one, two, at most three more years of the Legion of Boom.

    • art thiel

      Your points for not dealing Sherman are valid. But we don’t know his honest degree of frustration. If it had been one outburst, no big deal. But he has to come to grips with the consequences of his behavior on the team. How many meetings does Carroll have with him before it’s too many?

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  • woofer

    Great intro. What’s wacky about Trump is you get some pretty awful stuff served up in truly comical fashion. Our collective sense of humor should get us through. As to Sherman, the real question is whether he holds a grudge and obsesses over the things that upset him. If he can flash anger and then let it go as quickly as it arises, things will be OK. All in all, it’s hard not to like the guy, and he’s a great talent.

    • art thiel

      Fair points about Sherman. He can be stubborn to the point of being self-defeating. Fortunately, none of us have any trouble managing our emotions.

  • Steed

    September is a long way off. I will let the Seahawks figure out the offseason, then root for whatever they come up with.

    Go Mariners!

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks appreciate fans like you.

      • Steed

        I heard that manic guy on KJR hollering about the Seahawks last week. I just can’t imagine being at that level of hyper-ventilation , especially in the off season, more than 7 months away from game 1.

        • ReebHerb

          Who is the manic guy you refer to? Is it the ‘Yapper’?

          • Steed

            “Softy”.

        • art thiel

          Your imagination is what’s keeping you off the air.

  • Paul Harmening

    Since this is Superbowl week, just one question…Why does Belachick keep going to so many? Answer…Well, for one anyway, he doesn’t put up with the Sherman types. Carroll, I’m sure, is well aware of that.

    • 1coolguy

      Actually they don’t blow $$$ and draft choices on players, such as Harvin and Graham.

    • art thiel

      See my answer to Paul Sherman.

  • 1coolguy

    If JS and Pete would realize their BEST players are via the draft, with a few exceptions, they would look back on their big money/draft trade mistakes (Harvin and Graham) and stick to their knitting. They could also take a cue from New England on this score.
    Drop/.trade Graham and put that money into the O line, fergawdsakes! It is what has kept us out of at least 2 SB’s and possibly caused us to lose #49, as we may have scored more points making that last play’s interception irrelevant.

  • Paul Sherman

    How is it that the Patriot’s can continue to be a SB team year after year and still contend with the salary cap?

    • art thiel

      Belichick and Brady are the best coach/QB tandem in NFL history. They have been the best at adapting an offense to the personnel available. They used to be run-heavy, then they went up-tempo, then they went pass-heavy.