BY Art Thiel 07:09PM 01/01/2018

Thiel: Seahawks fixes include Wilson’s dashes

On exit day, WR Doug Baldwin said the run-game failures were critical, but not the fault of OC Darrell Bevell. Left unsaid was the need for Russell Wilson to rein in his romps.

Not all of Russell Wilson’s scrambles advance the offense’s cause. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Seahawks did it. They set a record.

For the first time since the adoption in 1978 of the 16-game schedule, Seattle is the first team to go a whole season with just a single rushing touchdown from its crew of running backs.

As a team, they had four rushing TDs, but three were by QB Russell Wilson, who also was the leading rusher in 2017 with 586 yards, or 35 percent of the team’s total yards on the ground.

This to brought to your attention because WR Doug Baldwin was trying explain Monday how the absence of a running game upended a season that concluded without Seattle in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

He knows it, and fans know it. But he harkened back to a comparison with the 2013 team that crushed the Broncos in the Super Bowl to help illustrate the depth of decay.

“Run game and defense have been (coach Pete Carroll’s) philosophy since he’s been here,” Baldwin said Monday at the VMAC in Renton, where an air of melancholy attended the clean-out day for players heading into an unusually long off-season. “The prime example was the Super Bowl. We were able to do what we wanted to do offensively. Defensively,  against Peyton Manning, the Broncos scored eight points.  If you took our offense out of the game, the defense wins by itself because it scored a touchdown and got a safety.

“It comes down to us being who we say we are.”

Only in spurts in 2017 were the Seahawks true to what made them.

To carry the 2013 analogy a bit further, RB Marshawn Lynch had 1,257 yards rushing for a team that finished fourth in the NFL in per-game average. The 2017 Seahawks finished 23rd, with a team total of 1,629. Lynch had 12 rushing touchdowns by himself.

Wilson in 2013 ran for a comparable number of yards (539 over 96 carries; this year 586 over 95). But the No. 3 rusher, fullback Robert Turbin, rushed for 260 yards. This season’s running back leader, Mike Davis, had 240.

Think about that. In 2013, Turbin was an after-thought breather for Lynch. In 2017 he would have seemed like a poor man’s Walter Payton.

As media and fans begin to pick apart the woes that left the Seahawks out of postseason party, the injuries and salary cap problems on defense seem to loom larger. But running game repair is order No. 1.

Until the Seahawks regain control of the ground, they likely will be wandering in a desert of 7-9, 8-8 and 9-7 seasons.

It is easy to lament the slow game starts, but the fact is that the 2013 team did the same thing, scoring 69 points in the first quarter, just 13 more than this year.  The problem this season was that opposing defenses didn’t have to account throughout games for threats posed by a running game that was not even half the caliber of the Lynch era.

The dependency on Wilson’s sandlot scrambles to get back into games was like a sugar high instead of meat-and-potatoes protein. And it made worse an already suspect O-line because blockers often didn’t know in what direction to drive pass rushers during a free-lance escapade. That’s a big part of how the Seahawks led the league in penalties: Holding calls made in desperation.

Nor was the weak production necessarily the province of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the popular target of fan abuse when plays go awry. In fact, Baldwin grew salty Monday when asked whether the offense has become more risk-averse over time. He chided reporters for not watching more game film.

“I wish I could can say more, but I’m not going to — obviously I’m frustrated because we lost,” he said. “I wish you’d do your job. I’m not saying this to piss you off or be an asshole. Investigate and watch f—— film.

“It’s not playcalling. We go into a game knowing what the defense is going to give us, and we don’t execute as a team. We’ve seen countless times we do not execute the way we should. That’s on us as players. You guys can blame Bev all you want to, but the truth is Bev is not the problem. I’ve probably already said too much.”

What he said, however, was important, and unlikely to be harmful to the club’s protect-the-team mantra. The fact is that Wilson, somewhat understandably given the physical abuse he’s taken over six years, isn’t getting rid of the ball quickly enough and reverts too often to running backward or sideways instead of stepping up in the pocket.

Opponent scouting reports take his tendencies into account and develop pressures to induce errant throws or shorter run gains. It isn’t necessary to get sacks or interceptions as much as it is to make him miss a beat. In the second half of the season, he missed quite a few beats. All those three-and-outs keep the meter running on a Seahawks defense whose stars keep getting older and more hurt.

It all comes back to the run. The good news for the Seahawks is that they have on hand some potential fixes that don’t cost money or draft choices.

Returns to health next season of LT George Fant, WR Tyler Lockett and RB Chris Carson, while also driving ownership of his own shortcomings by Wilson, offer the possibility of reaching NFL-average competency.

Variables remain, such as what to do at left guard, where Luke Joeckel often showed that he was damaged goods because of a surgically reconstructed knee, and at tight end, where Jimmy Graham was too often orphaned on his own island.

But if Wilson can be persuaded to replicate more frequently the drive that opened the second half  Sunday — an 80-yarder that included six plays of eight or more yards — the leap to relative efficiency no longer has the feel of spanning the Grand Canyon.

“I think (the problems) are very solvable,’’ Baldwin said. “I think it just comes with a different focus, different mentality. Maybe just more self-evaluation, and understanding who we are as men, first and foremost, in this locker room. Or in this building, I should say, and growing from there.’’

Correcting himself to add “in this building” was meant to include the coaching staff, just in case anyone misconstrued his endorsement of Bevell.

“It’s frustrating because we have so much talent on this team capable of doing much more this year,” Baldwin said.  “We didn’t do it.

“The trend we’re now on is not good.”

Neither is it inevitable, nor does it involve blowing things up.



  • Clint Anderson

    Offensive line is the common denominator to Hawk inept play this season again. Need to lose a few high paid defensive players to create cap space to correct things.

    • jafabian

      Free agency isn’t always the answer. You end up giving up compensatory picks and can end up in a bidding war depending on the player and then overpaying. Better to do your homework on the draft and the Hawks haven’t had much success with offensive linemen in their drafts.

  • Ron

    John Schneider will be leaving to take the open GM job at Green Bay which is his dream. That starts dominoes falling. like a calvacade. Pete retires rather than start over with a new GM. Players who loved Pete depart en masse.

    • Steed

      …..”Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft all leave the region. The Mariners move to Portland. Scientists discover coffee causes cancer. The Space Needle falls down. A pall settles over the once thriving city. On the bright side, parking is easier to find.”

      • Ron

        The price for coffee should come down, also.

      • art thiel

        And all the overbuilt apartments can shelter the homeless. I like this.

    • art thiel

      Well, now we know from someone who’s plugged in. How will things in the White House play out?

      And don’t forget to write in two months when none of the above has happened.

      • Ron

        Unfortunately, my prediction was based on bad information from Art. Specifically:

        Ron art thiel • 5 days ago

        Ted Thompson is stepping aside as Packers’ GM. Isn’t John
        Schneider on record and have a contract clause that allows him to return
        to Green Bay if that GM job ever opened up? Art’s story title that a
        Seahawks “reckoning starts at the top” could be literally true.

        Of course after John’s miscues lately, would the Packers offer him the job? I think, yes.

        art thiel SportspressNW Ron • 5 days ago

        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.

  • Steed

    If only Wilson could be persuaded? I think he wants to throw it quickly, but often doesn’t have trust in his receivers, or time. And he does sometimes make mistakes.

    But he did throw more TD passes than any QB in the NFL this season. On a terrible offense. So he has some potential.

    I say give the kid one more season, then trade him if he doesn’t get better. He needs to go to Switzerland and come back taller.

    • art thiel

      One more season, that’s it? Jeez, you’re strict.

      • Steed

        Just kidding. I don’t think Wilson is the problem, or the reason the team cannot run the ball. If he scrambled too much, it didn’t stop him from leading the league in TD passes.

  • wabubba67

    Wilson is becoming gun shy. I can’t blame the guy…he repeatedly runs for his life on even 3 step drops. It’s time to get an offensive line that is actually above average by creating cap space. Those that I expect to be gone in 2018: Lacy, Rawls, Joeckel, Oboushi, Graham, Willson, Avril, Bennett, Chancellor, Ryan, Walsh, and (gulp) Sherman (if he doesn’t agree to a pay cut).

    Carson/Davis/McKissic are all on cheap salaries which should allow the team even more flexibility to go out and get one or two very good veteran offensive linemen/TE.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Completely agree with you on your team intuitions.

      • wabubba67

        …and Lane (forgot about him).

    • art thiel

      They will have to extend Brown, but it’s hard to say which free agents will be worth the investment when, with Fant’s return, they have the guys they’ve wanted at all five positions.

      • wabubba67

        Art, do you think that Fant moves to RT (assuming they extend Brown), which then moves Ifedi to either RG or LG? I tend to think that we have 3-4 spots that need improvement (TE, LG, RG, and C…wasn’t all that impressed with Britt this season). We need to invest in at least two stud offensive linemen (either through free agency or draft) to get better. If they turn out to be better than the five that they’ve wanted all along, quality depth at OL in the NFL is a great problem to have.

  • jafabian

    I’d like to see the team elect to kick instead of receiving to start the game like they usually do if they win the coin toss. Have Coach Carroll challenge them to score on the first possession or be the first to score. Maybe that could kick them out of their first half doldrums. Hopefully there will be a quality RB at the 18th pick. They got Shaun Alexander at the 19th and he wasn’t half bad. But if 6 different RB’s this season couldn’t perform consistently and the line coach and OC are proven Super Bowl winners as well as the QB that leaves the O-line itself. In their defense the personnel for it is always changing. Would like to see it stay reasonably together and see what they can do next season.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Art–Would you consider relieving Cable of his duties “blowing the team up?”

    I am curious to hear an argument, not belied by the facts of these last (at least) two years, that Cable should be retained. He’s had youth, experience, cheap, expensive, high round talent, free agent talent–the whole gamut–and his lines, overall, have gotten worse, not better. If he contributes significantly to talent evaluation, he’s not a plus there, and as a coach he just lacks tangible results. He’s excellent at repeating “consistency” ad nauseam to a placid group of reporters in reassuring tones, but beyond that the run blocking alone this last year has been so “consistently” awful I can’t imagine how management could reasonably talk itself into another round with the guy.

    It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time. Trite, perhaps, but it seems relevant here. Not only is this kind of performance damaging our record, it is stifling belief among the players–it must be. And belief in its leaders–both players and coaches–is a lot of what makes a good team tick.

    • art thiel

      Cable has a lot of respect among players and coaches. Obviously, not all of his personnel choices have worked, but he did help make Sweezy, Carpenter and Giacomini some large coin. It took him three tries to find Britt’s spot, but he did.

      He had no business trying to convert Nowak to center. He was stuck by salary cap restrictions with Webb and Sowell, and they never should have paid damaged goods Joeckel $8M. Pocic has upside, but he’s too tall and has no sand in his ass. Ifedi doesn’t know how to play tackle, and certainly can’t figure out the rulebook.

      Then again, nearly every team has O-line problems, and it’s getting worse, for reasons you know. Remember the great Cowboys’ O-line last year? Two weeks ago it couldn’t get a touchdown at home against SEA’s battered defense.

      If you’re gonna fire him, gotta give me a name of someone who’s better and available.

  • Joe_Fan

    Isn’t part of the coaches job to make sure the players execute on game day? Why aren’t they executing? Is the coach not calling plays best suited for the team? Is the coach doing a poor job of getting the team ready to execute the plays? Also, is the coach not doing a good job of evaluating and recommending talent best suited for this team and culture? I hear what Baldwin is saying in terms of players not executing on game day, that certainly plays a part, but I have a hard time not pointing several fingers at coaches that don’t seem to be performing at a high lever. I also think Doug is protecting the coaches a bit in his comments.

    • art thiel

      Sure, all players defend coaches who’ve helped them. Doesn’t make what they’re saying wrong.

      Bevell’s the same OC that got them to two SBs, and people still wanted to fire him then.

      Nearly all the time, it’s about the players, not the coaches.

  • Effzee

    I have criticized Bevell a lot, but have never accused him of becoming too conservative or risk-adverse. I can see that its not *all* on him, because how can he call plays with a joke of an offensive line and a QB who never runs the play the way its coached. The whole thing comes down to the elephant in the room: Wilson is bailing out and running more because defenses are bum-rushing him straight up the gut, and he simply can’t see over or through his own offensive line. The franchise relied upon Wilson’s ability to scramble in order to overlook his pygmy status. His mobility allowed them to divert resources from the o-line to the defense. Their whole philosophy in building this team was based on his ability to scramble and make things happen. It worked in college (as do many things that don’t work in the NFL), it worked with Lynch by his side, and it worked before the league had six years of film on him. But now, he’s a known commodity, he’s predictable, and nobody fears him. Now that his youth and surprise factor have worn off, the rest of the league is like “Yep, he is exactly who we thought he was.” Russ needs to get leg extension surgery, or commission some special fancy cleats from Nike with risers in them.

  • bluecar80

    If Walsh had made his kicks during Washington, Atlanta and Arizona games, Seahawks would be 12-4 (vs. 9-7). Meanwhile, Hauschka has had a great year with Buffalo.

    • Effzee

      I agree that the signing of Walsh was a completely lame and lazy way to address the kicker position. They saw him crumple under pressure, first hand. What else would they have expected? Still, with the talent on the field and the philosophy they preach, they should not have had the season come down to relying on the kicker. They needed to score more points from the beginning of games, period.

    • art thiel

      This may surprise, but other team’s kickers miss FGs too, and few hit ’em all. Hauschka missed six last year, two less than Walsh.

  • Effzee

    The fastest way to get better is to trade Russell Wilson right now, in his prime, to one of the perennially crappy teams at the top of the draft who will think that he can save them. Replace Wilson with one of the top QBs in this draft. Keep Bevell and Cable and the continuity of the philosophy and message. Let them call plays and run an offense piloted by a QB who is capable of seeing more than half of the field, and who operates their system as designed.

    • Husky73

      Effzee…..Trade Russell Wilson??? The face of the franchise? Possibly the most valuable player in the league this year? The same Wilson that the Seahawks basically handed a lifetime contract? Trade Wilson and join the league bottom feeders for the next ten years? Here’s a quarter, put on your dunce cap and call your mother. Tell her there is no chance of you becoming a blogger.

    • art thiel

      Effzee, put down the crack pipe and keep your hands where I can see ’em.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art – appreciate the analogies, especially sugar high VS meat and potatoes on the Russell scrambles – nailed it for me. Again, would love for his physical talents to go back to being a threat option instead of what it’s been this season…..designed runs are OK!

    Rarely did anything come easy for this offense Plays made by Baldwin, for instance, required the utmost effort on his part and seemed a fraction of an inch from not being made. Getting back to a multi-threat offense will make those plays easier and accomplished with margin.

    Only one wish I have for player moves that I haven’t seen mentioned – Luke Willson becoming the #1 TE. Yes, he doesn’t have quite the size/gurth of an idea blocking TE, but he does his blocking job in workman like fashion, has been very dependable when call upon, is great for the locker room, and is a viable option on offense. I think he’ll blossom even more given that status. Vannette seems to be a solid #2 TE as well.

    • DJ

      Oh, one more wish, but on defense. I believe that the foundation of our defense is Cam and Earl, and based on their unique talents, mixed with Carroll’s philosophies of using long athletic corners, etc. They are the longest tenured and made this defense and the Legion of Boom possible. Cam should retire, and might only adequately be replaced. Earl is like 1 1/2 players out there – I don’t see an even adequate replacement. I would love to see Earl lead the rebuild along with Sherman. Gotta keep Maxwell, maybe Coleman, and we know Griffin is going to wonderfully complement Sherman when he’s back and up to speed. Hard to say who is valued, kept and exactly who will leave – lots of fuel for great speculation in the off season. So no predictions on my part. I’ll be happy to wait and see what exactly happens

    • art thiel

      Willson is a popular, serviceable guy, but his final target was a ghastly drop. He’s OK at everything, great at nothing.

      • DJ

        Dang – I haven’t seen the game yet (it wasn’t playing on the Big Island) but will.
        A serviceable Willson is a better alternative to the last three years of huge TE commitment, and will free funds for improving the line.


  • Husky73

    Russell does not trust his line and backs, and rightly so. He simply cannot play backyard football again in 2018 and expect to survive. Among the many things the Seahawks need to upgrade in 2018 is the backup quarterback. I nominate Kaepernick.

    • art thiel

      No you don’t.