BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 12/29/2018

Thiel: Carroll, Wilson and the Seahawks’ future

A harmonious convergence among Paul Allen, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson has sustained Seahawks success. Jody Allen showed she’s eager to play the game.

On the day of his hire in Seattle, Pete Carroll greets Tod Leiweke. / NBC Sports

The Seahawks’ run of success through the second decade of the 21st century has endured on an axis of power by four men remarkable in their fields — Paul Allen, Tod Leiweke, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson.

Longtime fans need no explainers about the quartet’s feats. But as the Seahawks prepare for their seventh trip to the playoffs in nine seasons, an appreciation seems worthwhile, since disruption may be in the offing.

To help newbies understand, here’s the sequence that begat success:

  • 1997: For $194 million, the execrable Ken Behring sells the Seahawks to Allen. He is the NFL’s wealthiest owner by a factor of five, yet persuades a majority of statewide voters to subsidize a replacement stadium for the Kingdome.
  • 2002: Allen hires Leiweke, a well-versed sports executive, as Seahawks CEO. Behind the revival of the 12s theme, the Seahawks reach their first Super Bowl in 2006.
  • 2010: Leiweke stuns the football world by hiring away from USC Carroll, who chooses from a list of four candidates, provided by Leiweke, John Schneider as general manager. The tandem is called  “a collaboration.”
  • 2012: Despite having hired a month earlier veteran QB Matt Flynn in free agency, Schneider/Carroll take a big risk by drafting in the third round a 5-10 quarterback, Wilson, and starting him in the first game.

The result of these decisions has been the best run in the modern history of Seattle sports.

In their first 29 seasons, the Seahawks won three playoff games. Starting in 2005, they won seven division championships and are 9-5 in the postseason, including two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl victory.

Now, however, change is afoot. The death in September of Allen, absent a public plan of succession, called into question the future of franchise. The Allen-Carroll-Wilson axis created stability and success that was the envy of the league.

Leiweke in 2010 moved on to the NHL, then to the NFL front office, and is now back in Seattle with an expansion team in the NHL. Both Carroll and Wilson had contracts that expired after 2019. The chance that both could move on was real, all within 16 months of Allen’s death.

The announcement this week that Carroll’s contract had been extended to 2021 was significant, not only for the reward for Carroll. It demonstrated awareness of urgency by Allen’s sister, Jody, the sole inheritor of the massive, complicated Allen empire. The decision figures to help the Seahawks in the off-season as they begin the campaign to convince Wilson, 30, to sign a third contract and stay out of free agency.

Regarding his new boss, Carroll this week gave a glimpse behind the heavy curtain of privacy the Allens have maintained.

“She’s been really excited and really fired up about doing this,” Carroll said. “Anybody that’s a 12 and cares for the Seahawks would be really fired up about how she’s looking at this.

“We have not hung out at all . . . we had one really significant meeting and a couple of talks (about) how she wants to go about it. She’s got a great love and spirit for the area and the club. It must be in the family, how she cares so much. She’s ready to go, and we’re excited for her.”

Obviously, first impressions are subject to change. And the cash a Seahawks sale could fetch in the open market, somewhere around $2.7 billion, could be put to massive use by the Paul G. Allen Foundation.

Having said that, everything about the Seahawks is worth more with Wilson as a part of things, almost no matter how expensive. He’s earning $21.7 million this season and $23 million in 2019, but the market expectation for a new deal for a top QB in his prime exceeds $30 million annually.

Even with a steadily increasing salary cap, that’s a huge chunk to devote to a single player while maintaining top-tier competitiveness in the rest of the lineup. And even if the Seahawks made a $160 million, five-year offer, Wilson’s wife, Ciara, could counter that her music career will advance more handily in Los Angeles, where they already spend a chunk of the off-season.

After all, she might say, Chargers QB Philip Rivers just turned 37.

If the Seahawks can’t sign Wilson to an extension, they have the option to use the franchise tag for 2020, a tool they haven’t deployed since 2010. But the outcomes of tagging are several, some odious, including the all-cash hit of $30-million plus in 2020 against the cap

The best football argument that the Seahawks can make to Wilson is that Carroll’s hires of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and line coach Mike Solari have helped make Wilson better. He’s become the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL, his pocket decisions are better and his runs are fewer, more calculated and less panicky.

Then there’s Carroll himself. Wilson is unlikely to find another head coach with whom he is in such alignment. Asked about the extension for Carroll, Wilson predictably gushed, then made a key point.

“The one thing about Coach Carroll, through all the good times, all the amazing wins we’ve had, through some tough losses,” he said, ” he’s been the same way every day in terms of his approach.

“That’s one of the things that makes him, in my opinion, a Hall of Fame football coach. Just a coach that makes a big difference.”

Big enough difference to keep Wilson a Seahawk? We’d never have gotten the chance to know unless Jody Allen decided to start playing brother Paul’s game.


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YourThoughts

  • DonMac

    Hi Art, good article. On a side note, even as a Husky, would it be too much for you to give a shoutout to the Cougs?

    • Bruce McDermott

      Art’s college degree is not from the U-Dub, and I think he would firmly dispute that he is a Husky fan. He has “no rooting interest,” as he likes to say.

      • DonMac

        That’s interesting given that Art eems to write most of the articles having to do with the University of Washington and while he may be critcal at times, the tone of his articles seem to reflect must more positively on the UW’s accomplishments. The catelogue of Art Thiel articles centering around UW has to be quite extensive certainly in relation to any articles he’s ever written About WSU. That’s fine, I get it, I was just saying, every now and then it would be nice to see an article written by Art pertaining to WSU that speaks well of WSU. Everyone knows that WSU is the poor stepchild to the UW, but the WSU football team is 37-15 over the last four years. I would just like to see this websit’s best writer, write about the Cougs more often.

        • art thiel

          More seriously, I harbor no grudge against WSU. In my decisions on topics, it’s based largely on a greater readership in this market for UW ahead of WSU. Pure demographics.

          But in neither case do I write anything to “speak well” of the school. The schools have platoons of marketers, PR people and SIDs to write yippee-skippee.

      • art thiel

        Bruce gets it. DonMac, a generation of UW officials would read your allegation of Husky fandom and offer up the full bwahaha.

    • Husky73

      Art is an EMAL.

      • art thiel

        Now you’ve confused them.

        • Husky73

          Rome, Paris, Monaco, Venice, the Adriatic coast, Kauai at sunset….and Parkland

  • wabubba67

    Previously, I was of the opinion that $30+ million was too much to devote to any QB in this offense. I was wrong. Wilson (though he still drives me crazy by holding on to the ball too long and making some poor pre-snap reads on blitzes), is the perfect QB for this run first, pass to score offense. A suitable replacement would be difficult to find. Sign him to a competitive contract and lock him up for five more years.

    • Keith Dudley

      Aaron Rodgers holds onto the ball longer than Wilson and gets credited for being great.
      Aaron Rodgers leads his teams to losing records.
      Russell Wilson is 2nd all time in passing rating and TD-INT ratio.
      Russell Wilson is 5th all time in yards per pass (best among active players).
      Russell Wilson is 11th all time in completion percentage and .5 behind Rodgers for 6th all time.
      Russell Wilson is 5th all time in INT percentage.
      Russell Wilson is 5th all time in TD pass percetage.
      Russell Wilson if he had the required amount of carries would have the 3rd best average all time.
      Russell Wilson has one of the 5 best winning percentages ALL DAMN TIME.
      Russell Wilson has thrown 62 INTs in 111 career games, compared to Peyton Manning throwing 120 in his first 112 games.
      Russell Wilson has led Seattle to winning seasons all 7 years.
      So that BS about poor pre snap reads and finding a suitable replacement is laughable unless you go into a labotory and created a perfect QB because he’s as close as they come at QB.

      • Drew Griffin

        Well argued.

      • Husky73

        Wow. That’s post of the year material.

        • art thiel

          I have to agree. Well done, Keith.

          Do you sleep in your “3” jammies regularly?

          • 1coolguy

            He trades off with Ciara, haha

      • 1coolguy

        Well done – Anyone who disses RW is, simply put, anasolute fool.

      • wabubba67

        You do realize that I advocated for signing Wilson to another contract, right? I also said that a suitable replacement would be difficult to find. (You seem to have misread or misunderstood.)

    • art thiel

      Don’t be driven crazy by modest imperfections.

  • Keith Dudley

    I said months ago that if Seattle fans keep talking, look for Wilson in a couple of years to be playing for the LAC.
    Rivers is older, Wilson and his family stay in LA and it would be the perfect fit.
    Than let’s see how well they do.

    • art thiel

      Then Steve Ballmer could hire him short term to run point for the Clippers.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Lots of good Seahawk news to happy with these days.
    I predict that Russell Wilson is a Seahawk for life. He’s got way more substance than to be swayed for the maximum monitary returns. It’s his team – that was the off-season commitment that was made. The long term commitment to him will happen. The only question is whether that large of a single salary is detrimental to maintaining the rest of the team. Gotta call out the Patriots/Tom Brady salary example for reference.

    • art thiel

      It’s not entirely his call. He’s married to a pop star with her own career.

      • eYeROQ

        Rivers shows no signs of slowing down either in his career or family building. With 9 mouths feed and college tuitions he’ll be expected to float I can’t see him wanting to retire next year when he can still expect to play at a high level for at least a couple more years if not more. Can you really see Spanos kicking a franchise legend to the curb to play for another team in an effort to sign Wilson? That’d be like if they kicked Dan Fouts to the curb before retiring a Charger. Can’t see it happening.

        As for Ciara, yes she’s a pop star with her own career. Pop stars are either deeply immersed in their studios inventing their latest electropop tracks or promoting themselves on tour. I’m sure she’s built a gorgeous studio in Russell’s Bellevue crib. What’s she need to be in LA 12 months out of the year for? It’s only a 3 hour flight.

    • Keith Dudley

      Contrary to popular belief, a QB’s high salary does not hinder teams from winning, it’s due more to the results on the field and luck.
      Conventional wisdom says if you want to win a Super Bowl or contend for one, get yourself a star QB and if you get a star QB, you have to pay for that star.
      Now let me give you examples of how star QBs (who are well paid) give you the best chance for winning and that their salaries were not the reasons they don’t win.
      Let’s go division by division.
      NFC SOUTH-Drew Brees is highly paid, especially since 2008.
      Since 2008, he’s won a SB (2009), was in position to win in 2010 (lost to Seattle), 2011 (lost to 49ers), 2013 (lost to Seattle) and 2017 (lost to Minnesota).
      They just failed to win games and Brees didn’t actually light up his opponents in the 2013 and 2017 losses.
      Matt Ryan in 2012 got to the NFC title game and lost. He went to the Super Bowl in 2016 and blew that huge lead. Last year he lost his playoff game inside the 10 yard line.
      He had his chances.
      Cam Newton blew the 2015 Super Bowl.
      NFC North-Aaron Rodgers blew 2014 and 2016 NFC title games. Rodgers blew a 15-1 2011 season. He’s had his chances.
      Brett Favre blew chances in 2007 and 2009 in conference title games for two teams.
      NFC West-Carson Palmer had a chance in 2015 and lost the NFC title game.
      NFC East-Tony Romo blew his chance in 2014.
      Eli Manning blew his chance in 2016.
      AFC West-Peyton Manning was highly paid and blew title chances in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
      How many chances did Alex Smith get in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017?
      AFC North-Ben Roethlisberger in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 had his chances and just didn’t deliver.
      Joe Flacco had a great chance in 2014 when they blew that lead against New England.
      I just gave you examples where

  • Williec

    “Execrable”—wow!! Perfect word!!

    • art thiel

      The dictionary is full of ’em.

  • 1coolguy

    Art – Did you REALLY have to paint the LA picture so clearly, ie, Ciara, Rivers, etc???
    Now I am bummed out and will be until the Hawks re-sign RW, in my opinion the most versatile, therefore best, QB in the league.
    Here’s a suggestion for something only you can accomplish: Take RW out for a heart-to-heart over a few beers and let him know how important he is to the franchise, and take along a contract for him to put his John Hancock on, ok? We all know you can do it Art, so go for it!