BY Art Thiel 06:40PM 09/19/2018

Thiel: Carroll takes the flak, but can’t hide facts

Carroll blames his own impatience for dubious playcalling, but somebody still has to block the pass rush of the Dallas Cowboys, who seek to add to Wilson’s league-leading 12.

Actual photo of a Seahawks running back, Rashaad Penny, carrying the football. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Over the first two games, the Seahawks have converted 28 percent of their third downs. Not only is that 29th among 32 NFL teams, it’s 10 percent less than in 2017, a year so unproductive that in the off-season, coach Pete Carroll trap-doored his top two offensive coaches and drafted a running back in the first round.

The rhetoric surrounding the transformation insisted that the Seahawks were committed to the run game the way the seven dwarfs were committed to Snow White. Now? She’s kicked to the curb.

The Seahawks seem to be playing a little afraid.

Not only are they not often running the ball, only four of QB Russell Wilson’s passes Monday in Chicago traveled more than 15 yards. Yes, a short passing game made sense because of Bears DE Khalil Mack’s Kraken-like tendencies. But completely self-censoring the deep pass puts even more pressure to run.

Instead, they dinked. And lost.

Carroll almost always cites failure to convert third downs as the source of the problem. That isn’t the source of the problem, because it’s a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the line’s inability to muster a sustained threat.

Oh, and one other thing.

“I’ll take it — my impatience,” Carroll said Wednesday. His self-admonishment about playcalling is the latest in a string of mea culpa statements by the coach.

On the surface, anyway, the candor is commendable.

“Both games were close enough throughout that we could do whatever we want to all the way down to the end of it,” he said. “Got a little impatient, threw the ball more than we wanted to. I’m owning up. That’s what I would say is the issue.

“I’m over that.”

That, of course, remains to be seen Sunday in the home opener against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday (1:25 p.m., FOX).  Against the Bears, the Seahawks threw 14 consecutive passes over second and third quarters despite Carroll’s almost evangelical preaching the previous week regarding the run.

So pardon me for double-cocking the eyebrows.

“I need to be less impatient,” he said, offering a half-smile. “I tend to be (impatient).”

That must be fun for Brian Schottenheimer, who has traveled the land working for seven previous pro teams and three colleges. In his first year as Seahawks offensive coordinator, Schottenheimer may be a little reluctant to argue with a Super Bowl-winning head coach, figuring there’s only a finite number of places left for him to coach.

Having problems there, Pete?

“No,” he said. “We are growing together. I was with (fired assistants Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable) for seven-eight years. There is stuff to grow, new situations that happen. I need to do a really good job in helping him.”

Nice idea, but part of the idea is for Schottenheimer to help the Seahawks, not repeat the mistakes the the earlier regime. Wilson leads the NFL with 12 sacks.

Carroll made a point of saying that he wasn’t calling plays for Schottenheimer. But . . .

“I can affect the way the guy is thinking,” he said. “Not just Brian; that’s the way it’s been with playcallers for years. You can screw him up, and you can also give him some good plays once in a while, too.”

The deciphering of the coaching relationship may be a moot point. Carroll may be absorbing the criticism for the 0-2 start because it keeps the media jackals from flaying players and assistants. It’s an old coaching trick.

Mariners fans may recall the 2001 postseason when the Mariners went down 0-2 at home to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Manager Lou Piniella, recognizing that the media would make a bad situation worse by pestering his 116-game-winning players with questions about choking, opened his presser with a fiery statement that the Mariners would win in New York and bring the series back to Seattle.

Reporters sprinted up to the pressbox to run with the quick, easy story,  ignoring the clubhouse. The strategy looked brilliant after Game 3’s 14-3 win, but the Yankees cruised in the next two to win the series 4-1.

Moral of the story: BS can work, but only for so long.

Carroll’s willingness to be the object of public criticism is smart. But eventually, and perhaps as soon as Sunday, the line, which might be missing C Justin Britt (shoulder) and LG Ethan Pocic (ankle), will have to block to create a rushing attack that allows Wilson to run when it suits him, as well as throw open his receivers deep.

Otherwise, they’re playing scared.

But this may not be the weekend to test the theory. Even though on Christmas Eve in Dallas, the Seahawks beat the Cowboys 21-12, Seattle had 136 yards of offense, including 76 rushing yards on 30 carries. Freakiest win of the season.

Most of Dallas’s ferocious defense is back. Six players sacked Eli Manning Sunday in the Cowboys’ 20-13 win over the Giants. DE DeMarcus Lawrence, who may be the equal of Mack and Denver’s Von Miller, is eager for replication.

“We can’t just sit here and get satisfied off of sacking Eli,” he told reporters. “We’ve gotta do it again and go sack Russell.”

Carroll’s shoulders are broad enough to take criticism. Pity they’re not broad enough to take on Lawrence.


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YourThoughts

  • Parts

    I wonder how things are going to look in November, if the Hawks are struggling and all of a sudden rumors start swirling about Pete heading to whichever big time college program is not meeting expectations.

    • Husky73

      He’s not far from 70 years old. I can’t see that happening unless it is back at Southern Cal. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

      • art thiel

        Given USC’s poor start, the speculation already has begun. I think he knows better than to go back.

  • Husky73

    I’ve not seen Carroll in this awkward of a place before (other than the post USC interview). Part of it may be because there are so many new coaches and players. He may not yet know what he does and doesn’t know. The next two games are winnable. Folks are paniced or depressed at the moment. I’m holding judgment until after week four. Even 1-3 would bring some hope.

    • art thiel

      i do think he’s surprised at the degree of difficulty in the transition, and he’s volunteering to take the hits, which he should.

  • Tman

    Well for the love of Germain Ifedi, what in the Sam Hill is going on here? Two losses and folks are speculating big dog is out of here. He, Mr. Wilson, et al, have given us a great run. This is just a speed bump on the way to adversity. Speaking of which, were those 5 first half sacks a record?

    • art thiel

      I don’t think anyone’s going anywhere soon. But let’s talk if it gets to 0-16.

  • 1coolguy

    Dallas’ 6 sacks of Manning are not equivalent to potential sacks of RW, as you cannot find two more polar opposites. Manning has feet of stone and is therefore a target every down, while RW is the proficient scrambler we know.
    We can only hope that whatever Cable and Solari see in Ifedi will be realized this season.

    • art thiel

      True about Manning. But Wilson still leads the league in sackings.

  • woofer

    Everyone understands the NFL parity game but no one wants to acknowledge its obvious implications. A bad team gets to load up on high draft picks at a low fixed cost and quickly gets better. The real test comes later — when success eliminates access to the high picks and the stars who are suddenly no longer inexpensive rookies need to be signed, cut or traded. The truly elite teams are the ones that figure out how to stay good after their turn at winning the lottery has spun past. By that measure, the Patriots stand alone at the top of the heap. On the next tier are the Packers, Steelers, Ravens and maybe a few others. For everyone else it’s an endless roller coaster ride.

    The farcical aspect of the process is that the loyal fans of the latest lottery winner will always insist on pretending that the cycle does not apply to their local heroes, that their team’s success is due to the amazing genius of the particular coach and/or general manager. So in Seattle we have indulged the happy charade that the brilliance of Carroll and Schneider will keep the Seahawks at the top of the NFL dog pile indefinitely, that their genius will overcome the harsh rules of the lottery. But now, alas, the truth is sinking in: Carroll and Schneider are in fact not exceptions to the rule; indeed, due to foolish trades and poor drafting their collapse was actually quicker and more complete than the league average.

    But, hey, the Baker Mayfield Era has officially begun. The rise of the Browns from the ashes of futility to championship status will surely be a sports saga for the ages. And how about that Hue Jackson? He must be the smartest coach ever!

    • art thiel

      A reasoned understanding of the big picture, woofer. Every team under a salary cap is destined to pay its stars at the expense of depth. The only thing that extends the run longer is successful drafting. The Seahawks haven’t done that since Scot McCloughan left in 2014.

      He now works for the Browns.

  • 1coolguy

    Cleveland – Yes, Cleveland’s O line gave Mayfield more time than the Hawks give RW! OMG, after watched that game, RW would do WONDERS behind Cleveland’s O line. I don’t know how Allen has kept JS on board – Arguably, the O line has possibly been the difference from not having gone to another 1 or 2 SB’s.

    • art thiel

      They did fire Bevell and Cable. Schneider gets a chance to fix it.