BY Art Thiel 05:24PM 01/07/2019

Thiel: It was O-line injuries, not the play calls

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called criticisms of playcalling in loss at Dallas “garbage,” saying injuries to Fluker and Sweezy were larger in bringing on season’s end.

Besides Dak Prescott, DE Frank Clark is eyeing a big pay raise. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Pete Carroll would never let a game defeat, even one in the playoffs that ended the season, throw shade on his yippee-skippee, the man’s most vital organ and the driver of the franchise.

“It was a blast,” he said Monday, two days after the 24-22 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas denied the Seahawks a chance to play the Rams in Los Angeles, a playoff match-up they liked and wanted. “I loved that (Cowboys) game. I know it was ugly and hard. But I loved that we were in it, fighting and clawing and scratching up and down the sidelines, seeing guys find their belief, and again rediscover that belief, and why we should keep believing.

“I agree with (J.R. Sweezy). Sweez said he had more fun than he’s ever had. So did I.”

Coming from two participants in the 2014 Super Bowl triumph, that’s saying something. But the rest of the locker room consistently touched yhis season on the same theme of an enjoyable, productive work environment. Besides new coaches and players, contributing to the uptick were the absence of tension surrounding veteran stars, the fade of the controversy around national social-issues protests, and the steady accumulations of football successes.

To emerge after all of the changes with a 10-6 record and a berth in the tournament was probably Carroll’s premier single-season coaching job in Seattle.

The part that wasn’t exciting for the 12s was Saturday’s outcome.

Particularly odious was the way it went down, persisting with a running game that wasn’t working while neglecting a passing game that had been a season-long source of explosive plays. The play-calling of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer became an object of local and national ridicule.

Carroll pushed back Monday, calling criticism of his first-year assistant “a bunch of garbage” on his weekly ESPN 710 radio show, then was more restrained with reporters.

“To try and blame Schotty with the play-calling or something, I understand that reaction, but it isn’t warranted,” he said. “Hold it against me. I’m the guy that’s in charge of this thing. There’s nowhere to look at an individual guy, it’s a team thing.

“The fact that Schotty was working the game plan — trying to hammer the football is what we did every week — that’s how we figured to win. When it doesn’t work, you have to get moving and find the ways to get the game won, and that’s what we were attempting to do.”

Carroll pointed out that Seattle’s only other TD drive besides the one in the final two minutes was a 44-yarder in the third quarter that put the Seahawks up 14-10. Of its nine plays, eight were runs. Seattle’s final three possessions included just one run.

But there’s no arguing that 73 rushing yards was less than half the seasonal average, and six of the 12 possessions were three-and-out affairs.

Carroll pulled back the veil a bit to admit that part of offense’s ineffectiveness was his decision to play LG Sweezy (foot) and RG D.J. Fluker (hamstring) despite their injury-induced absences from practice for big parts of the past month.

Carroll didn’t say so directly, but neither should have played. Still, this was the playoffs. After the game, I asked Fluker what he thought of his play.

“Considering . . . I did OK,” he said, quietly. Given his standard level of brash, good-natured self-confidence, the moment told much.

“I think that we expected a lot,” said Carroll of both players, who rejoined the line for the first time since Dec. 2. “I made an expectation on Fluke coming back, and Sweez getting back out there, without practice time. Hard to expect those guys to play top-flight football. Dallas guys were coming off the rock, did a nice job up front, and we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. That’s really what it felt like watching the film.

“Our timing was a bit off early. You could see it improve. It was a lot to ask, but we went for it.”

Until Seattle’s 75-yard TD drive in the final two minutes, the Dallas D-line, already among the best in the NFL, helped keep the Seahawks offense, which scored the second-most regular season points in club history, to 224 yards and 14 points.

But there was nothing to be done Monday about losing a winnable game. Besides, the future comes up too fast. As always, big business decisions are upon the Seahawks.

According to spotrac.com, the Seahawks have $60 million in space under the 2019 salary cap, seventh-most in the NFL. That leaves plenty of room to re-sign their top priority, DE Frank Clark, whose four-year rookie deal is up after a season of 13 sacks, tied for seventh in the NFL, plus other instant helpers.

Carroll said on the radio that talks with Clark’s agent have been going on for a while. He also said he’s had a business meeting with an even bigger franchisepriority, Wilson, who has a final year left in his $87.5 million deal that increasingly seems a bargain.

“Russ and I met and we talked about the future,” he said. “We are talking about where we are going and what we want to get done. You know, that’s very much in our plans.”

Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, has always seemed eager to get Wilson, 30, to free agency in his career prime, one of the reasons he insisted on a four-year deal in the previous negotiation instead of five.

But that drama likely will be put off until spring, following free agency and the draft.  Besides, for a short while, Carroll, fresh with his own contract extension through 2021, wants to look back past the events of Saturday to a season in which he proved wrong a Legion of Doomsayers.

Short of a game Sunday at the Coliseum against the Rams, it doesn’t get any better.


YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    Huskies done, Seahawks done….a sliver of hope with Husky hoops….otherwise it’s a slate grey winter ahead of us before we see who shows up in Peoria.

    • 1coolguy

      What is in Peoria – oh yeah, I almost forgot. The leagues crappiest team, so again, “what’s in Peoria?”

      • Husky73

        You should go to spring training. It is the best of times. It would be therapeutic for you.

        • Effzee

          The Mariners? Therapeutic? Wait…. are we talking about the same Mariners? The Seattle Mariners? Of American Baseball?

          • Well technically, they’ll be playing T-Ball this year in the puke pink lights shining on our publicly funded stadium. Seems appropriate

          • Husky73

            This winter, find your old glove, put in on; then, watch a game on a summer afternoon. The years fall away, time stands still, and the joy of baseball reminds you once more of life’s eternal sweetness.

          • art thiel

            C’mon now. Most of us take secret guilty pleasure in something worse off than we are.

        • 1coolguy

          Therapeutic? Watching their sorry play would give me a heart attack. Therapeutic for my wife maybe, haha.

          • Husky73

            Happy wife, happy life.

    • art thiel

      Time to get to that basement or garage cleanup you meant to get to in September.

      • Kristafarian

        OMG — Free time?!

        Thanks, Seahawks!

      • Husky73

        Time to sort out some of my old saved Seattle P-I ‘s.

  • Tian Biao

    Thanks for the perspective, Art, and the insight into the o-line. It was pretty obvious that they weren’t playing to their usual standard. As for the play calling, I had no problem with it. That’s just the Pete Carroll way: grind away for three quarters, then open it up in the fourth. I know folks like to draw grand conclusions from final scores, but close games always come down to a few plays that could have gone either way. This game was no exception. Wait till next year! (except first we have to watch the Mariners . . . oh no . . .)

    • art thiel

      The bad outcome with Pocic and Ifedi at guards forced Carroll’s hand. Neither Sweezy nor Fluker should have played.

  • 1coolguy

    I am not a football maven, just a fan, yet when I watch Brady, Luck, Rodgers and Rivers, I see them constantly shouting out what appear to be audibles, changing the plays once they look over the defense. I don’t seem to see RW do this, almost at all – has he been restricted to just running the plays as called, or is he calling audibles but I just don’t see them?
    It sure seemed in the first 3 qtrs there were opportunities to change the plays as called.

    • Bruce McDermott

      He calls checks. The last touchdown he threw to McKissic was a check, according to Pete…

      • art thiel

        I’d bet a quarter of RW’s TD passes were checks. Once he sees Baldwin/Lockett one-on-one, bombs away.

    • antirepug3

      I see Wilson doing just like Rodgers…running out of time changing things at the line and having to burn time-outs.

      • art thiel

        Give defenses some credit for disguise. The best QBs can be fooled.

    • art thiel

      He’s frequently changing the plays, just not theatrically. Carroll said it was Wilson’s best season yet for scrimmage command.

  • Tim

    While it’s incredibly frustrating that Wilson wasn’t allowed to cut loose, I love the way Carroll has his players and coaches backs and holds himself accountable. What a great example of leadership. That’s why this team is to be feared in years to come.

    • art thiel

      Accountability is a big deal for Carroll’s teams. And any well-run org.

  • coug73

    The dismal running attack seemed to open up the passing attack with big plays. What was missing in the running attack was a few more explosive runs than the one by Penny.

    Coach Bubbles is an optimist and the big runs never materialized.

  • Kevin Lynch

    The players, coaches and fans should feel good about the season. There’s a lot to feel good about, frankly. But assuming they can resign both Wilson and Clarke they will still have to confront the situation in their division. If you can’t win it and play the post season at home the Super Bowl is a long, long way away. The team plays with a different face and feel on the road. It’s always been that way. I was trying to imagine how a healthy Hawk offensive line would hold up with the Ravens rush in Baltimore last weekend. You have to beat the Rams and play at home post season or figure out how to play better on the road. They were 4-5 this year, beating four weak teams (SF, Arizona, Oak, Carolina). San Diego is 8-1.

  • tor5

    And it shouldn’t be missed that EVERY loss was a one-possession game. The Hawks biggest defeat was 8 points, and four of their losses were within 3 points. Pete’s enthusiasm is justified. It was a remarkable season.

    • art thiel

      A final loss in the playoffs always overshadows the feats. Given the inexperience on D, 10-7 was remarkable.

  • Kirkland

    Two minds on this one. The Hawks were supposed to be rebuilding, if not outright tanking, so a friend says that they even made the playoffs meant “they were playing with house money”. However, the questionable play-calling blew a winnable game and drew fire from not only football fans but writers and analytics people; and with the Rams looking set to dominate the division and the Niners recovering, getting to next year’s playoffs is problematic. Glass half-full, half-empty, or just half-capacity?

    BTW, Janikowski’s injury inadvertently swung a lot of wagers on the game. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, the Seahawks’ would’ve kicked the extra points on their next two touchdowns instead of going for two … and those two successful two-point attempts meant they covered the point spread (+2.5).

    • art thiel

      Yes, the DAL bettors were in magnum whine. But I rarely mention gambling outcomes because the if-then game can be played dozens of times per game, and is tedious to non-gamblers.

      Never do half-full, half-empty stuff following the season. So many changes pending, it will make it a fruitless waste of brain cells.

  • I’m glad to see Coach Carroll standing up the whiners and the haters. Get a grip. This team over-achieved like none I can remember. Definitely Carroll’s finest season as a coach and Chris Carson looks like the back of the future. Dallas earned the win–their line play on both sides was better than I expected and that usually translates to W’s. Janikowski’s injury was a huge factor that’s gotten almost no mention. If he hits that FG rather than pulling his hamstring, it’s an entirely different second half. Having no ability to chip away with field goals limits offensive options and making playing D easier. Great season Seahawks!

    • art thiel

      Janikowski’s injury changed some things, but the two 2-pt conversions minimized the impact. Had SEA held DAL to a FG at 2 minutes, a TD drive would have tied the game at 20. Then Carroll would have gone again for two, because he didn’t trust Dickson’s placekicking, and couldn’t block for a drop-kick.

  • jafabian

    SeaBass getting hurt is lost in all this. If he made his last FG attempt, and he had the distance, the Hawks win. And he probably would have had at least a couple more attempts in the second half. If anything this game illustrates the need for more depth. The Super Bowl team had players like Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane and Malcolm Smith as reserves. The starting WR’s at the beginning of the season were Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. They ended with Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. To get to the next level that kind of depth is needed. Can’t say enough on the heart this team showed. They didn’t quit all season.

    • art thiel

      The reason this team lacked the depth of the champs was that they could afford quality veteran backups because RW was still on his rookie contract. None of the six highest paid QBs made the playoffs this season.

  • 1coolguy

    As dismal as the Cowboy game was for all us fans, let’s not forget that sans Griffins’ forgetting what HS freshmen have drilled into their brains, “CONTAIN”, the Cowboys may not have scored in the final minute of the first half and voila, Seahawks win.
    The game was that close, one play screwed up what otherwise would have been a Hawk “W”.

    • art thiel

      He and Akeem King mis-communicated, but one of them should have had contain. You’re right, huge play. As were numerous others that could have swung the game.

      • 1coolguy

        I anyone questions the value of Sherman, with him, this play is shut down. Period.
        The last minute of the UW and Hawk’s first half’s will always “live in infamy”.

        • art thiel

          That’s the consequence of firing Sherman with no adequate replacement.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Again, the title of this piece is presenting a false dialectic. It was the failure to adjust in play-calling to the product of O-Line injuries–the stoning of our running game–that may have cost us this game. In other words, O-Line injuries were manifesting in poor results when we ran the ball. What should we have done when this became clear? Keep calling the plays that weren’t working, in the hope that it was just a matter of time until we broke through? Or something else….

    • art thiel

      OK, counselor. Write me a better headline in a similar tight count. In one minute.

      • Husky73

        “Cowboys Score More Points, Seahawks Lose”