BY Art Thiel 06:18PM 01/17/2018

Thiel: ‘Very aggressive’ Carroll has no choice

In firing Bevell, Cable and Richard, his three key coaching confidants, Pete Carroll took a massive swing to get the Seahawks back where they were. Next come veteran players.

Pete Carroll took a deep look into a bad end for the Seahawks. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In light of the coaching changes made by the Seahawks, a review of Pete Carroll’s remarks after the season foretold the imminent sweep of the scythe. While it’s easy to say in hindsight that what may end up as a removal of nearly all assistant coaches was necessary, it remains fairly remarkable that Carroll fired Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable and Kris Richard, his top three assistants who played critical roles in getting the Seahawks to two Super Bowls.

Tough stuff, after seven years at or near the pinnacle.

Addressing reporters two days after the season-ending, desultory 26-24 loss at home to injured Arizona led by (cough) backup QB Drew Stanton, Carroll said he and general manager John Schneider would “take a very aggressive approach at this point in our evaluations of what took place, and what we need to do.”

That, he has done with the coaching staff. Players next. 

“There’s a lot of people and families involved, heartfelt friends and loved ones that we’re dealing with,” he said. “We take all that into account, to compete our butt off to figure out how to get better, and back on track, the way we want to be.”

Based on his further remarks, it sounded as if Carroll and the staff had a fundamental mis-read of the talent available, which was further exposed by injuries to key players on both sides of the ball.

Carroll seemed mortified at the subsequent failure to coach around the shortcomings in order to get better by December, Carroll’s month to shine  — the 21 wins in December was tied for the most in the NFL since 2012. Instead, the Seahawks grew worse, setting some club and NFL benchmarks for seasonal futility in the aspect where he takes the most pride — a physical run game.

The Seahawks had a single rushing touchdown by a running back. The modern NFL has never seen such futility.

“That’s terrible,” he said. “This year, it didn’t work out the way we had planned — we had extremely high hopes for this season. We weren’t able to adapt as well as we’d like to keep us on track for the playoffs.”

The failure to adapt to changed circumstances was not confined to just health and tactics in the run game, which lost LT George Fant and RB Chris Carson by the end of the season’s first quarter. Carroll talked about how his formerly youthful core of Super Bowl talents has undergone inevitable changes, and are now different people.

“Nobody comes back the same,” he said of the year-over-year roster. “They aren’t the same. Their lives are shifting so quickly. Times change so fast. Whether it’s guys going from their first year to their second year, or finding wives and having families, or facing new contracts and free agency, as well as natural maturing . . .  all of those things make them come back different every year.

“We have to see who they are and re-evaluate, and not assume they are the same. They are not different bad. They are just different.”

That’s an apt observation, as well as a polite way of saying some players may have lost a bit of an edge from the more carefree, fun days of 2012-14. The decay often is a hard thing to know empirically, but so is whether a coach is still effective.

The inevitability of physical and psychological change, as well as players’ own heightened awareness of the game’s brutality, is why Carroll and an increasing number of his contemporaries put a premium on youth over experience.

The behavioral changes were obvious with the Legion of Boom. Over the past couple of years, SS Kam Chancellor held out, futilely seeking more money, CB Richard Sherman publicly confronted coaches on play calling, and FS Earl Thomas publicly courted Cowboys coach Jason Garrett (“come get me!”). Who knows what went on behind the scenes.

Many around the Seahawks coughed nervously over actions harmful to the team. But the awkwardness was largely the result of players recognizing they are closer to the end than the beginning. They sought to max out their opportunities in a league whose acronym to players has always meant Not For Long. As much as fans often are charmed by pro teams’ all-for-one mythology, me-first is always competing too.

“Challenges are always there for the coaches to find ways to communicate and be on the cutting edge of making sense for these guys,” Carroll said, “and motivating them and keeping them jacked. I don’t think it ever stops.”

That is perhaps a main reason for the return of Ken Norton Jr. to replace Richard as coordinator. He’s not likely to call a better game than Richard — if he were, why didn’t Carroll advance Norton when Dan Quinn left for Atlanta in 2015? — but his demeanor and three Super Bowl rings count for a lot in a sometimes-tense locker room loaded with successful alpha males.

The biggest handicap for Carroll in the remake of the Seahawks — “it’s personnel, the technical side of the game, the administrative part, everything from how we rehab to how we play-call,” he said — is that the transition to successor players has been weakened by a several years of poor drafts. 

It’s particularly apparent on the offensive line, where the only Pro Bowl choices in Cable’s tenure were C Max Unger and LT Russell Okung, whom he inherited. Only one lineman among 15 Cable drafted in Seattle, C Justin Britt, has been close, named as an alternate a year ago — and it took three changes of position for him to find his groove. Newer draftees RT Germain Ifedi and RG Ethan Pocic have much work to do.

The draft is the province of Carroll and Schneider. But as of now they have traded away their second- and third-round picks in 2018. In free agency, the Seahawks could be more aggressive, but that depends on how many big salaries they choose to cut.

Carroll took some offense to the notion that the front office, fearful of the close of the Super Bowl window, mortgaged some of the future by trading draft choices for emergency hires DT Sheldon Richardson and LT Duane Brown to try to win big in 2017.

“‘There’s not a year where it’s, ‘OK, let’s sit back and wait until next year,’” he said. “There’s not a week, there’s not a day, there’s not a moment that we think like that.”

If that’s true, then Carroll, by replacing most of his coaching staff ahead of purging some expensive veterans, has closed the old window. He seeks to open a fresh one in 2018 with new people in many places.

Since he has only two years left on his coaching contract, he has no choice but to go for it in 2018. How he gets there from where he is in mid-January is almost impossible to see. But if he pulls it off, he’ll become a different person too — a one-man Legion of Boom.

 


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YourThoughts

  • RunningRoy

    It’s easy to make comparisons to the post-2005 SB gradual decline of the Hawks, but think of the Mariners in the post-2001 (116 wins) era. Couple of 90+ plus winning teams (no playoffs) while management continued to ride the declining gravy train of Olerud, Buhner, Wilson, Edgar etc instead of blowing it up. They kept thinking they’d wait it out. Pete can’t and won’t wait.

    • art thiel

      It’s a little slippery to go far with comparisons on rebuilds because the variables are so many per team — age, health, contract sizes, ownership tolerance, etc. The NFL’s hard cap makes it difficult to pull off changes with older, more expensive teams.

      Hi Roy! Good to hear from you.

      • wabubba67

        I think that the main difference between the Seahawks and Patriots has to do with how the teams value braun v. brains. Belichek LOVES smart, versatile players that can mentally adjust drive to drive….Carroll values supreme athletes that might not be as bright. In the case of the former, it’s easier to let go/trade an established veteran…the Seahawks (like almost all other teams) are paying the price for being the latter.

        • art thiel

          I think the distinction you make is overdrawn. Both rosters have both kinds of players. The biggest distinction between the coaches is Belichick’s willingness to let top players go a year early. But that’s something that has played out only a few times.

          • wabubba67

            I guess the point that I was attempting to make is that New England evaluates potential draftees/FAs differently…thereby making it easier to acquire those players and at a cheaper price…and also allowing those players to leave once their salary exceeds the value of a potential replacement.

            Seattle seemed to be on the path of doing something similar in the early days of Carroll/Schneider. For instance, using Red Bryant as a DE that would simply move upfield and then sit to set an edge preventing runs to his side of the field; acquiring Chris Clemons and using him on the the other side as a DE; Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman as HUGE press corners to beat up/jam/hold WRs off of the line of scrimmage. In that system, players who had limited value (at best) around the league, thrived in Seattle with defined and unusual roles. It appeared to be sustainable over the long term. It was also an offensive way of playing defense, as the Seahawks dictated the term term to the opposing in offense (thinking primarily of Bryant’s role in shutting down runs to his side). With time, though, Carroll/Schneider seem to have conformed to standard player evaluations and schemes throughout the league with average (or slightly below) success. This regime was at its best when it stole a mandate from the late Steve Jobs:. Think differently.

          • Ron
  • Effzee

    Everything you just said is why I think even Wilson is not untouchable. He is no spring chicken. He’s not getting any faster or taller. His stock will never be higher. This is why I say that I won’t be surprised if they sell him as a franchise savior, and dupe the Browns or Jets into trading a top 6 pick for him. I’m not sure how either of those franchises could turn down an MVP caliber, Super Bowl winning QB in his prime. Maybe they have to throw Earl into the deal, too. Who knows. But I have a nagging suspicion that Pete has seen too many passes go unthrown because his QB just can’t friggin’ see. Again, they’ve already proven that they can win fast with a rookie at the helm. Maybe Pete wants to know what its like to have a prototype, big-bodied QB running things.

    • Ken S.

      So the simple thing to do is trade Wilson off along with his $21m hit on the payroll ceiling? Hmm. I have to admit I hadn’t thought of that. The biggest beneficiary of that trade might be Wilson. What’s the chance he’d land on a team with a better O-line than the one he just left?

      • Husky73

        Wilson. Ain’t. Going. Anywhere.

    • jafabian

      The one constant of the Patriots success beyond Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft is Tom Brady. You look at the Steelers and Packers and it’s their QB’s who are the constant for them. You don’t get rid of a QB who’s at the peak of his game and gave the franchise it’s only Super Bowl win. You build around him. And the Hawks have built around the defense instead. They need to find a balance instead.

      • Effzee

        I’d argue that Russell Wilson is no Tom Brady, and that Brady doesn’t have the glaring physical limitations that simply prevent him from doing some basic things regular QBs can do. Like see the entire field, for example. His escapability has covered up for his height deficiency so far, but as I said, he’s not getting any faster, and defenses catch up with that kind of thing in the NFL. I’m not saying its likely to happen, I’m just saying Carroll seemed to imply anything was possible, and nobody is safe.

        • John M

          Mostly logical, but I think you underrate Brady’s receivers, even with the injuries. Like ’em or not, the Pats are a well coached disciplined team and nobody is better at finding gems of talent anywhere . . .

          • Bruce McDermott

            Their O-Line also can run block, at least at times. That helps.

        • jafabian

          Wilson may not be the caliber of player that Brady is but he’s at least among the top 5 for his position. IMO there’s about 10-12 QB’s in the league who are legitimate starting QB’s. It would be foolish to get rid of a player like Wilson when there’s that kind of disparity among the position. At the very least the offense would take a step backwards for a time. None of those 10-12 teams would give up a package that included their QB for Wilson and the club wouldn’t take a lesser QB that included draft picks. As far as limitations go where Wilson lacks height Brady lacks mobility. So it goes both ways. And Wilson is 5’11”, the same as Drew Brees who not only won a Super Bowl but has an MVP award and a SB MVP award.

          I agree Gronk is a beast when healthy. He’s the Patriots number one WR, not Edelman. Key word there is “healthy.”

        • wabubba67

          You are completely high if you think that Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola, Cooks, and a RB like Lewis are inferior as a receiving corps compared to the Seahawks.

      • art thiel

        Carroll’s D-first priority has always worked, but like anything with human labor, it breaks down. The problem is they didn’t draft enough next-gen players.

    • John M

      Right, Wilson is no spring chicken, he’s a full grown rooster who needed better communication with his OC. The only concern I have with Wilson is that he’s got so many things going on, he’s almost too popular, and now with a growing family. Most top QB’s at his point in their career’s do not have more than half the distractions he has . . .

      • Effzee

        Even more reason for Pete to want to regain status as the face of the franchise.

        • Steed

          Pete wants to “regain” status as the “face of the franchise”, over Wilson?

          Good Lord, that stupid is staggering with this one.

      • Steed

        Worrying that Wilson’s performance is hurt by “too many distractions” is the perfect definition of worrying over nothing. You cannot point to one single second of practice or preparation he has missed because of his non football activities, because he has not missed one second of any of it.

        He is as focused and disciplined as any player in the NFL. Forget the NFL, he is more focused and disciplined than most people on planet earth.

        • John M

          I cannot disagree with your opinion of Wilson’s ability to focus. Yet he is human. There are many more things competing for attention in his thoughts and it is impossible not to be affected. I think Wilson is great. Yet he has slipped back to being reluctant to throw into tight coverage and when he does it is not as often perfect as it was two years ago.

      • art thiel

        It’s a normal thing to have a premier young player think he can handle everything, learn otherwise, then pare back. Great quarterbacks have succeeded while having families, but there’s no workaround for the learning curve.

    • Stephen Pitell

      Likely? Not. At. All. For one high draft pick? Are you out of your mind? Cleveland would give us two #1’s, a 3rd, and next years 2nd and our pick of their OL. Seriously, he’s worth it. And if Wilson’s problems are organic, and Pete could KNOW that, then it would be the smart thing to do. But we are just being crazy because anyone who traded a guy with Wilson’s stats away from the team would go down in infamy unless Wilson tanked. Just depends on how sure Pete was about his evaluation. I expect he thinks Wilson is the teams most valuable asset besides himself.

      • art thiel

        Wilson needs close to a league-average O-lline, and his yips fade.

    • Chris Alexander

      I wouldn’t trade Wilson for the Brown’s entire draft. He may have his limitations but he isn’t costing us any games, he’s definitely delivering a few wins each season we wouldn’t have without him, and he and Carroll are made for each other. Plus, the entire “never say die” attitude the team has is entirely because of Wilson; dude doesn’t know how to quit and even when we were trailing the rams by 4 scores, he probably still thought we could win. You aren’t going to get what he gives this team from anyone else, not even Brady. And certainly not a rookie QB from this year’s draft class.

      • Husky73

        The most popular player on any football team is the next quarterback. How anyone could be down on Wilson (or Browning) is ludicrous.

      • art thiel

        Some teams go decades between franchise QBs. It’s not the position for do-overs.

    • Husky73

      Wilson is absolutely positively untouchable.

    • art thiel

      Wilson does too many things well to think about the trap door. Every QB needs a coach who can demand more when he sees bad patterns developing. He won a SB in his second year. The fact that the team declined around him is no reason to trade him.

  • DJ

    Carroll and Schneider are setting up for another run. A total rebuild that includes major coaching changes is a sign that they are reformulating themselves as they did when he first got here. Maybe they allowed themselves to stray from the original concept and are resetting. Should be interesting to see how the rebuild compares to the current team formulation at it’s peak since, at least in my observation, the current defense has been based on Chancellor and Thomas and their unique physical talents, as cornerstones. Certainly the offense, even if it’s smash mouth run based, has a chance to be quite different since the other was built before Russell, and since he’s matured and stood the test of time, taking advantage of his many abilities should be taken into consideration. I’m excited and I trust them to put together another hell of a team. GO HAWKS!

    • art thiel

      The difference from the changes starting in 2010 is there were few expectations, and he had two losing seasons to begin his tenure. There’s no runway in 2018.

  • jafabian

    I can see letting Darrell Bevell go as OC for the purpose of wanting a new voice to direct the offense. Letting Cable go surprised me though. Both he and Bevell paid the price of Caroll and Schneider always going defense first in their drafting and free agent acquisitions as well as contract extensions. Regarding the latter the club should have at least invested in either Max Unger or Russell Okung with a contract extension if anything for the sake of Russell Wilson. I have some concerns about Justin Britt and Ethan Pocic’s development with Cable gone. Cable got an average O-Line to contribute to the success of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson and win a Super Bowl. Cable may have inherited Unger and Okung but they became Pro Bowlers under him, Unger first team All Pro in 2012.

    Letting Kris Richard go as DC was also a bit of a surprise to me because of the injuries to the defense and I thought he got the Legion of Substitute Boom to come together and play well down the stretch. Justin Coleman excelled under his tutelage. As with Cable’s departure I’m not sure about Shaq Griifin and Mike Tyson’s development with Richard gone.

    I don’t know how the Hawks scouting system works or if they’ve lost the scouts they used from 2010-2012 but they need to return to the success they had for those drafts. You don’t need a high draft pick to find and develop good players. They’ve proven that but not the past few seasons, 2017 not withstanding. Too early to tell at this point for last years draft. Schneider and Carroll look to be setting up for a SB run but the same was true last season with the moves they were doing. They not only need to draft well but develop the young players they have on the roster from the last drafts. And it won’t be easy with several new coaches coming in who the players don’t know and whom will be introducing their own philosophies.

    • art thiel

      Bevell was a stranger to Carroll when he was hired. Smart guys can handle the transition.

      I was surprised about Richard as well. Something went down there that is not known yet.

      • Ron

        Report is that Cowboys hired Kris Richard. Bevell interviewing with the Cardinals.

  • coug73

    When the chips are down the buffalo is empty.

    Change is inevitable except from a vending machine.

    It should be fun watching how the Seahawks rebuild, a great challenge in the making.

    • art thiel

      Somebody’s been watching Comedy Central reruns of Steven Wright.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    The team was 2 missed field goals away from 11-5 last season folks . Certainly changes needed to be made , and will continue to be . But going into full panic mode and a total rebuild isn’t called for ; no freaking way they’re trading Russell Wilson you guys , c’mon ! The 2 main issues are the cap , and drafting ..

    The cap is a problem , but with Avril and Kam not coming back , hopefully that gives us some space . Richardson is a priority resign IMO ; you gave up Kearse and a 2nd round pick to acquire him , and he’s a difference maker . I believe Duane Brown has 1 year left on a contract he’s unhappy with ( ? ) . I’d love to see us resign McDougald , but he may be too pricey after a terrific season . Bennett is on the wrong side of 30 , had plantar faciitis and I’d rework his contract to use him as a situational pass rusher If possible .

    “.. the transition to successor players has been weakened by several years of poor drafts” . Bingo ! Our offensive line certainly needs a makeover with the exceptions of Brown , Britt and probably Pocic as keepers . Hopefully Solari can beef up the guard positions , and I’ve read where there’s the possibility of him switching Ifedi back to guard and moving Pocic outside to tackle . It’s hard to say what we have in the 2 safeties we drafted last year ; neither of them saw the field much . Fresh blood at defensive end is a priority to pair with Frank Clark . I like Carson , but he’s coming off an injury and was a 7th round pick . Don’t really wanna go into next season with that situation at running back .

    .. any way you slice it , Schneider needs to hit another home run draft this spring . I got a shiny nickel that says Schneider trades #18 and grabs more picks . But I’m not exactly ready to pass the torch to the Rams just yet guys – we beat them at their house , and that collapse at the end of the season very probably won’t repeat itself .

  • Kevin Lynch

    Wilson is not going anywhere, to answer some blogs. Too risky in replacing him, his numbers, his reliability, his genius decisions mid-play. I would sell out to rebuild the offensive line and assume the highly rated new line coach can make it work with the young backs. It will be interesting to see if veteran defensive players are swapped out for cheaper, younger players who don’t have injury histories. Are they keeping Brown on the offensive line? Contract status?

    • Chris Alexander

      Per spotrac.com, Brown is under contract for another season at $9.75M.

    • art thiel

      As Chris below points out, Brown has another year, but there was speculation that the Seahawks are willing to offer a three-year extension that Houston would not do.

  • tor5

    It’s hard to see some of my heroes likely gone, like Kam. But I have to hand it to Pete and John for boldly shaking it up. To embrace the upheaval and the unknown and rebuild the team and the culture, it takes guts and will take a lot of work. Though I have to say that the Wilson trade talk is nuts. Teams have gone decades trying to find a QB of Wilson’s caliber. Those who think we could find a younger, cheaper franchise QB via trade or draft haven’t been paying attention. The odds of that working out are terrible. And Wilson and Carroll were made for each other. They each bring the best out of the other.

    • art thiel

      There is nothing to the Wilson talk. It’s just that when everyone uses the term “blow it up,” it’s the default conclusion that he’s part of it.

  • woofer

    Well, it should be entertaining. That’s the point, isn’t it? If the players are no longer fun to watch, then the coaching staff and front office will need to take up the slack. Can John Schneider juggle and tap-dance? We are about to find out. Bevell and Richard are what are known as fungible commodities — readily available in bulk, as needed. Not so sure about Cable.

    • art thiel

      I prefer to think of it is changing the tire on a car going 50 mph.

  • Howard Wells

    I’m sorry but I am a simple man with simple thoughts. Probably because that’s my limit. But anyway…with the same “talent” why think different “coaches” saying “do this do that” result in different results?

  • Husky73

    Some people call it a kaiser blade. I call it a sling blade.

    • coug73

      I call it a manual weed eater. Effective but so labor intensive.

  • Steed

    Hooray for the scythe. I called for it a couple weeks ago. The word must have stuck in Art’s subconscious after he read my post. Along with a lot of empty beer bottles and half finished columns.

    I don’t know enough to evaluate the efficacy of what they are doing, but there’s no doubt they are taking action, and that is what we wanted.

    • art thiel

      Did you now? I’ve had worse things planted in my head. Thanks.