BY Art Thiel 09:13PM 12/31/2017

Thiel: A Seahawks reckoning starts at the top

A pathetic home loss to a broken team in a playoff-elimination game should inspire some serious reckoning for the Seahawks — if events haven’t already overtaken them.

The Seahawks offense spent much of the 2017 season, including Sunday at the Clink, seeming bewildered. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The great run of the Seattle Seahawks ended with the eerie quiet of an errant field goal in a silent stadium. The cacophony that seemed to swirl around the Pete Carroll Seahawks — regularly successful, always compelling and often controversial — was gone. The circus, it seemed in the twilight of New Year’s Eve, was pulling out of town.

Much rightly will be made of the miss by Blair Walsh as symbolic of the personnel misjudgments that brought about not only the 26-24, season-ending defeat to Arizona, but brought a 9-7 season that failed to make the NFL playoff field for the first time since 2011.

Walsh is a side note in a litany of problems that created a combined 54-0 deficit in the first halves of recent games against two NFC West rivals, setting aside the 99-yard touchdown on a kickoff return Sunday by Tyler Lockett.

That shocking discrepancy was created by shared failures in roster-building, coaching and player execution.

“I’m really just disappointed and pissed off about this game, to be honest with you,” said WR Doug Baldwin, who caught two touchdown passes. “We have so much talent. We should be in the playoffs.”

It’s true. The Seahawks, despite the injuries, despite the penalties, despite the youth, despite the age, were playoff caliber. Not championship caliber, but playoff caliber. Just as in the second half Sunday, they were capable of wondrous plays and uproarious rallies.

But it is emotionally and psychologically exhausting to play so inconsistently.

Unsettled and insecure, the once-imperious Seahawks became vulnerable to mediocre teams like Arizona and Washington. A proud defense deeply wounded can respond only so many times to having to rescue so many games. It’s a little like first-responder fatigue.

One, DE Michael Bennett, said post-game he was likely done with it.

“I probably won’t be back next year,” he told the Tacoma News Tribune. “Just seems like it’s a young man’s game. I can see them going younger, with younger players. That’s part of the game.”

Bennett is 32, worn down physically but more emotionally with the added responsibilities of being a national leader for social justice and a viewer of the wider world he can no longer ignore.

At least he managed to finish the season. Not so for his fellow defensive stalwarts DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman.

Each man’s case is different, but they shared a common standard to play hard, well and together for a long while. So long, in fact, that had the Seahawks advanced to the playoffs, they would have been only the ninth team in NFL history to string together six seasons of double-digit wins.

But the cumulative strain of multiple shortcomings gave way, Sunday and for the season.

“This game today was almost a microcosm of the season,” Carroll said. “The slow starts, the getting in our own way. Making it hard on us at times, when it wasn’t about the opponent, it was about us.

“It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to change the narrative of the way the games went. I’m so surprised that we played like we did today, because we were so ready, and we practiced so well and prepared so well. It didn’t come out right until the end.”

The fact that Carroll is bewildered is telling. Perhaps it is his trademark relentless optimism that overrides a realistic appraisal of talent and circumstances. But events may outstrip his understanding.

It would surprise no one if Avril and Chancellor, because of the serious nature of their neck injuries, join Bennett in retirement. Sherman, recovering from serious Achilles tendon surgery, vows to be back, but he was almost traded last off-season.

FS Earl Thomas is healthy and says he wants to be back, but has embarrassed himself by honking his own horn about his potential availability in a trade or in free agency, if the Seahawks fail to extend his contract.

The potential departures of so many stars in a single off-season would have a profound impact on the Seahawks’ way of doing business under Carroll. Yes, there would be great salary-cap relief, but importing free agents is an expensive and volatile way to re-build a roster.

The smart way is always through the draft. But GM John Schneider’s choices since 2014 have produced few substantial players. To whiff completely on the top pick in 2017, DT Malik McDowell, was a major blow. It followed the dubious choice of first-rounder RT Germain Ifedi in 2016, the most penalized player in the NFL in 2017.

Then there is the erratic late season of QB Russell Wilson, who again made spectacular plays and threw no interceptions, yet made enough small errors in decision-making to help stymie the first-half offense.

It’s possible Wilson, another man of eternal sunshine at the top of the Seahawks pyramid, is oblivious to the consequences of his mistakes. Others are not.

“I thought this was going to be our best team, actually,” he said after the game, with a straight face. Wilson may be in for some awakenings if this becomes Tell the Truth Off-Season.

Along with other under-performers, notably on the perpetually tumultuous offensive line, it allowed the Seahawks, in a playoff-elimination game, to be beaten by a team missing its top two running backs while being led by 34-year-old backup QB who had a passer rating of 54.2 after completing 15 of 34 passes for 145 yards.

Supposedly playing with a torn knee ligament, Drew Stanton was sacked once for minus-2 yards.

Yes, the Seahawks would have missed the playoffs anyway Sunday, because Atlanta won the NFC’s sixth and final playoff spot by beating Carolina 22-10. The Falcons had the tiebreaker because of their 34-31 win over Seattle after Walsh was two feet short with the game-tying field goal.

But the failure to beat a broken Arizona team at home, where they finished the season 4-4, perhaps will have the consequence of further illuminating what ails the Seahawks. I asked Baldwin what changed in the 80-yard, 10-play touchdown drive that opened the second that was different from the horrid first half.

“We played better,” he said, “We played better.”

Knowing I knew he knew that answer was unhelpful, I kept staring at him. He glanced over at a Seahawks official, then re-worked his response.

“I would love to sit up here and tell you exactly what the problem is, but I’m not going to tell you that,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. A lot of work to do. We have the ability to do it.”

By ending the season Sunday, they’ve given themselves more time to solve some of the problems. The task needs to start at the top, with a bewildered coach and an oblivious quarterback.


  • Kevin Lynch

    Excellent summation, Art. Sometimes past successes and pink glasses can be blinding. But what was wrong in game 1 was wrong in game 16. They do need new energy and new claws and new fight. They have to drop the penalty ratio, fix the front line and replace the kicker. And then fix the funk. I believe neither Bennett, Avril or Chancellor will retire, at least not permanently. But I doubt any of them will be back with the Hawks. Time for a shakeup. That’s the good thing about this loss. The people at the top will finally have to admit something is wrong.

    • Husky73

      “Fix the funk.” Well said. This team has been in a funk since training camp with numerous distractions, and the talented and popular head coach unwilling (or unable) to rein in his wandering herd. These young men are paid millions to focus and play football. They are intelligent and serious minded people who have important things to say about the issues of the day. That’s fine. However, they have a primary responsibility to their coaches, team mates and the 12’s to focus on their jobs first and foremost during the season. Art is right about the circus of 2017, and Carroll’s bewilderment has been self created by his sins of omission.

      • art thiel

        Keep in mind that no one in charge of a group of men mostly under 25 who have come to sudden wealth and fame can manage all of them successfully all the time. Especially after they get hurt and football-old.

        • John M

          How true, Art, as are your summations and many of the the comments above. Thing is, there’s lots of good young talent on the team (Jordan and several others had a good game), while some, like Rawls, keep doing the same dumb things. If a couple older ones that have enlarged themselves for their own personal reasons and sometimes talk negatively leave, we’ll miss them for a few minutes and admire the hungry new ones with the right mindset.

          So if the Hawks cut McDowell now, would there be any draft compensation?

    • art thiel

      Probably some or all could happen, but none of us can predict what the health and attitude of the injured players will be in March. Very complicated stew as it relates to the salary cap.

  • Ron

    silver lining is that the loss allows the Hawks to improve 4 spots in
    the 2018 draft to pick #18 instead of #22. But on the other hand, it is a first round pick, which will get messed up anyway.

    • art thiel

      Put on your offseason seat belt. You’ll be hearing lots of rumors. But you’re right about the first round pick. McDowell cost Schneider a lot of public cred.

      • Ron

        Breaking news: Ted Thompson is stepping aside as Packers GM. Isn’t John Schneider on record and have a contract clause that allows him return to Green Bay if that GM job ever opened up?

        • art thiel

          Schneider has debunked the story of the GB-out clause. No one can prove that, of course, but he’d have no reason to lie, or even have it. I’m sure that if GB solicits him, he will ask for permission from Paul Allen, and Allen will grant it, perhaps with the proviso that he be allowed to beat any offer. But there’s no way Allen would deny him a chance to work for his hometown team again.

    • 1coolguy

      Thank you for the recognition: How ’bout that first half??? Another great job by Bevell, ugh. If he isn’t a goner, it is clear proof he has the negatives of either Pete or John.

      • Ron

        How about we hire one extra offensive coordinator who calls the first half, and keep Bevell to call the second half of games?

  • Matt Kite

    I was strangely relieved they didn’t make the playoffs. As inconsistent as they’ve been this season, they didn’t belong there and probably would have embarrassed themselves. A long offseason could inspire some soul-searching — assuming the head coach and quarterback, among others, are willing to get real.

    • art thiel

      Yet they beat Philly at home and Dallas on the road. Who knows what would have happened?

      • Matt Kite

        True enough. They could have gotten hot at just the right time. As the regular season was winding down, I sometimes allowed myself to think positive: “Maybe they’ll get on a roll.” But it’s hard to imagine this year’s team sustaining a high level of play for more than one game (or one half of a game).

  • Husky73

    Dear Doug Baldwin: So, exactly what is the problem?

    • 1coolguy

      One word: BEVELL

      • Bruce McDermott

        No, that may be one of the words, but it isn’t the only one.

  • Husky73

    In the movie “Love and Mercy,” Brian Wilson reveals some of the torments of his life to future wife Melinda. Upon hearing Wilson’s heart breaking tales, Melinda takes them in for a few moments and then comments, “Well, shit.” That’s exactly how I feel about Husky Saturday and Seahawk Sunday.

    • art thiel

      You have the floor, senator.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Perfectly said! There’s a wonderful horror moment in the film The Blair Witch Project when the kids walk for hours to escape the sppoky woods…only to find out they’ve gone in a circle. THAT’S the way I feel about the Seahawks addressing their offensive line problems. Or should I say their issues with their kicker.

      • Husky73

        The Blair Witch moment describes 40 years as a Mariners fan.

        • Will Ganschow

          We have had the Blair Walsh Project. ( wasn’t that one easy enough to see.) Biggest personnel failure of the year. How many games did he cost us?

          • art thiel

            His eight missed FGs tied for the NFL lead. See Tuesday morning’s story by Steve.

        • Kevin Lynch

          Buffalo made the playoffs. Hmmnnn….doesn’t that make your Seattle Mariners the team that has gone the longest among the three major sports in missing the playoffs?

          • art thiel

            Yes. Duly noted in our Sunday recap of the Seahawks game. The Mariners are on the frontier of human achievement.

  • woofer

    The agony is that, even with the injuries, the Seahawks are in the playoffs if three self-inflicted front office blunders were avoided: squandering a high pick on an identified nut case like McDowell, releasing Alex Collins, and refusing to spend a few extra pennies to keep Hauschka. All brain-dead unforced errors. Without those mistakes, they are in the playoffs with room to spare.

    Maybe Schneider and Carroll getting hot on their early year personnel decisions made them cocky and reckless. They saw themselves as draft day geniuses where dumb luck was a more accurate call. Plus it’s OK to roll the dice on untapped potential for a 6th or 7th round pick; if you hit the jackpot on 30% of your bets, that’s still a net win. But on a 1st or 2nd rounder, you want to go for low-risk established talent.

    Even so, the Hawks are not that far away from getting it done. They don’t need to find more stars, they just need a few reliable average journeymen to plug into some key holes in the offense. A couple average journeymen on the offensive line, and one more as a kicker. It’s not that hard to do.

    • Talkjoc

      A lot of my thoughts were pointed out by woofer so I won’t repeat them. I do have a couple of things to add or reinforce. John Schneider always thinkings he’s the smartest guy in the room full of Mensa club members. This OT or that RB is a bust elsewhere but I can make him bigger, stronger, faster. (sorry about the six million dollar man reference). Three moves I thought killed the Hawks. Blown high-round draft picks, AGAIN. Crappy O line. AGAIN. Kicker decisions, AGAIN. All said it’s been a great run. Thinking we’ll need a program to identify new assistant coaches and players next year.

  • ll9956

    Excellent wrap-up of the 2017 Seahawks’ season Art. There’s no doubt that much speculation about future roster changes will occur in the coming weeks and months, so I’ll throw my two cents into the pot at this time on the situation with our place kicker.

    I believe Blair Walsh is a good person. It comes through in his comments. That is commendable.

    However, the reality in the NFL is that it’s all about winning. Prior to this game Walsh ranked 26th out of 32 kickers, with a 71.4% success rate. That is just not good enough to succeed in the NFL. Therefore I feel the Seahawks must let him go. They need someone who is more reliable. A new kicker can be had either from the draft or in free agency or via trade.

  • coug73

    So many close games. Missed opportunities.

    Steven Hauschka, 26 for 30, 13 straight from 50+.

    Too many penalties.

    Injuries, all teams suffer from injuries.

    The Hawks play tough, competitive football, however this year the the magic ended.

  • JonasGrumby

    You sure give Walsh a free pass. Still in love with him for winning the playoff game against the Vikings?

    • art thiel

      He’s not good enough to keep his job, but I don’t believe that’s much news to anyone. He tied for the league lead in missed FGs. See our Wednesday morning post on kickers.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art, and Happy New Year!

    Nicely done with Doug. He’s a smart kid – a long ways from the guy pooping the football in the end zone. He knows what’s up. Sure wish that Russell could be more honest. His so obviously unrealistic assessments about his offensive team mates are almost embarrassing to hear. He can’t “wish” them to be what they aren’t.

    You are so right about Russell and Carroll. I’ll be a fan for life for what they’ve been and done, but where they are at right now is a bit disturbing. Good luck to them in the offseason!

    • art thiel

      Wilson is wired to keep it upbeat, and it’s taken him a long way. Even if it is annoying, and disingenuous.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Let’s just say that despite appearances Russell’s press conferences are never on “Tell the Truth Monday…” Hope he is much wiser behind closed doors.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Bennett is 32, worn down physically but more emotionally with the added
    responsibilities of being a national leader for social justice and a
    viewer of the wider world he can no longer ignore.

    The guy who flat-out lied about his ‘encounter’ with the Las Vegas police? Is a national leader for social justice.

    The guy – who counted more than 15 million towards the cap – complained he and his fellow multi-millionaires were nothing more than Jim Crow descendants? Is a national leader for social justice.

    The guy who showboats a trinket given to him by a veteran who supports his ’cause? Yet ignores the thousands of other veterans who take an opposing view of his ’cause?’ Is a national leader for social justice.

    That doesn’t even get into his antics on the field … such as taking out an opposing players legs during a victory formation.

    You’re a great sports writer, Art. Sports. But when it comes to your constant injection of left-wing politics? The only difference between you and Joel Connelly is a couple pounds and your place of employment.

    • Will Ganschow

      So rosetta_stoned, since you want to throw the first stone, how about if you step up and show us all how a real human would do it. There isn’t any hatred lurking there in your heart, is there? When I was a kid, Wendell Smith a black sports writer for a Chicago Newspaperwrote about the horrific conditions people like my boyhood hero Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Lou Brock had to put up with when they went to spring training in the south and southwest. This was a white upper middle class suburban kid’s introduction to the civil rights movement. This brought home to me how hatred blinds those suffering from its corrosive effects. Will Michael Bennett ever be “perfect enough for you to hear what he is trying to say? Would you be willing to step into his shoes, the day before he received his first professional paycheck and meet the demands he has had to meet?

    • Matt Kite

      Looks like 2018 is going to be just as nasty as 2017.

      • art thiel

        You expected a calendar to change minds? Buckle up, Matt.

    • art thiel

      Who did the lying in the Vegas episode? If you say Bennett, you missed by one.

      I missed the Jim Crow remark, so please provide a link.

      This will surprise you but veterans are on both sides of the issue. But that would mess up your narrative.

      He didn’t take out the center’s legs. Even the NFL agreed.

      But I won’t take issue with your argument about sportswriters. :)

      • Bruce McDermott

        There will be no links. This “information” was gleaned from an echo chamber. It’s relationship to facts is incidental.

  • Sam Base

    The Seahawks are the Seahawks once again. The old Seahawks. Not the new Seahawks. The Seahawks we grew up with, scratching, clawing, begging for Wild Cards. But that’s the way it was so for long. And you know what they say about riding a bike. It’s what we know. It’s what we do in Seattle. We beg for Wild Cards. Sometimes we even beg for a team to come to our city. Sometimes we beg for a team not to leave. It’s who we are. It’s Seattle.

    • art thiel

      Back away from the cliff, Sam. You may have missed that the Seahawks have been to three SBs.

      NY, Boston, Philly, Washington and other big cities have all lost sports teams.

      Feel free to admire the long Seahawks run, and to be disappointed about Sunday. But the persecution complex is not a good look for you.

  • 1coolguy

    ““We played better,” he said, “We played better.”
    Knowing I knew he knew that answer was unhelpful, I kept staring at him. He glanced over at a Seahawks official, then re-worked his response.
    “I would love to sit up here and tell you exactly what the problem is, but I’m not going to tell you that,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do. A lot of work to do. We have the ability to do it.”
    Why didn’t you just SAY IT Art, for those readers who need a clue: That first drive was the result of decent play-calling that took advantage of what the coaches saw in the first half.
    What Bevell is not capable of is adjusting the play calling DURING THE GAME. It’s as though he has this monolithic, set in stone game plan that he just doesn’t get away from, (look up “insanity”) and does not make adjustments. He comes out with some plays for that first drive, but doesn’t adjust the rest of the game and ta-da, same old, same old.
    One of the TV announcers, after an RW TD pass, stated RW had just passed Brady for most TD passes, then he added something like: “RW has to play catch-up late in games, which results in passing TD’s”. Talk about 100% insightful. RW has saved the Hawks and Bevell’s AZZ with his 4th quarter heroics for years, not just this year.
    Imagine, if you will, if the Hawks consistently scored say 14 first half points? The D would get some rest, RW wouldn’t have to risk his career every play and the Hawks would WIN more.
    NO OFFENSIVE POINTS against a middling team (as you described so well, Art), at HOME, with the PLAYOFFS on the line??? Really? Who could have even ventured to imagine that happening?
    In business, when there is a lack of success in an area, repeatedly, a CEO rebuilds that area, starting with replacing that areas’ head person. It’s tie for Carroll to be an effective CEO and replace Bevell.
    Oh, and as for Schneider dropping Hauschka for Walsh – DO EVEN GET ME STARTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • art thiel

      I’m sure Wilson and the rest of the offense conspired to work around Bevell’s game plan.

      Read my latest column. Seahawks scored 56 in 1Q this season. Guess how many they scored in 1Q 2013? 69. Didn’t exactly doom them, did it?

      The difference is the game-long consistency of Marshawn Lynch, not the playcalling.

  • Michael Galey

    I had a microscopic amount of confidence that Carolina would win by the slimmest margin against Atlanta in Atlanta, GA. But after watching the Hawks kick scratch and dodge at what look like the replay of the 80’s squads in the first half I told myself y’all get out the hankies because your looking at swan song of a proud team that reached the end of the line. Hope doesn’t win games, age will be a factor of course and add the injuries sustained will determine whom returns. I’m moving to Alabama in March after 36 plus years but will still be a Seahawk loyalist. I will peek in now and then to read what’s on Art’s mind!

    • art thiel

      I hope you stay in touch, Michael. Are you moving for the college football?

      • Warchild_70

        Hey there Art! I can only comment this “ROLL TIDE!!”. Sorry to my Mizzu Tigers and WAZU Cougs but those good ole boys can play ball!! Yes I’ll go to the SE games wearing the Blue, Wolf Gray and Action Green and my favorite Rick Myers jersey (I was impressed with his first season!) Guess I’ll try to get a #83 Raible throw back jersey some time later.Through it all Art I’ve read your column first and when y’all went to sports NW because you are the epitome pf a sports writer with out biases. I do want to thank you for the great run for 35 + years. Warm regards from M.T. Galey SGT (RET) US Army.