BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 01/15/2021

Thiel: New guy will step between Wilson, Carroll

Russell Wilson wants to be the greatest of all-time. Pete Carroll is good with winning games 17-14. In the middle will be the Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator. Fun.

Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson in happier times, in New York, 2014. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

For the longest time during Russell Wilson’s season-ending Zoom conference Thursday, I felt like a rookie rush end trying to pin him in the backfield. With an almost perpetual smile, he took each question and swooped and soared with bromide-rich answers that dodged facts, insight and candor.

Indeed, Russ again was cooking — an eggless omelette.

The approach was not new. We’d heard it before. But we hadn’t heard him since his mentor, friend and Bible-studies pal, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, “parted ways” Tuesday from the Seahawks over “philosophical differences.”

It was good of Wilson to provide an hour of his time on a family retreat in Mexico to discuss what was probably the second-worst loss of his Seahawks career, given expectations and the stunning failure of the offense in the 30-20 loss to the Rams.

He didn’t have to do the Zoom — he had the foreign-field advantage of saying, “Poor connection.”

But he fulfilled the obligation graciously. Finally, around the 50th minute of the chase, Gregg Bell of The News Tribune wrapped him up.

Were you in favor of changing your playcaller right now?

If you ask me if I’m in favor of it? No,” he said. “Unfortunately for us, in coach’s eyes, it was time to see if we need a change.”

Not really worth a sack dance, but Wilson’s disclosure was at least a hit: He was unhappy, and confirmed the obvious that coach Pete Carroll wanted Schottenheimer gone.

The admission wasn’t tantamount to Hercule Poirot finding the murder weapon on the Orient Express. But at least it seems as if Wilson didn’t throw Schottenheimer off the train.

“It wasn’t my decision to change Schotty,” he said. “(Carroll) has been doing this a lot longer than I have, so, I trust his decision. At the same time, obviously, I’m gonna miss Schotty. He and I have been so close. He’s a tremendous coach.

“What I am in favor of is our football team getting better. What’s really important is us winning championship. That’s what I’m in favor of.”

Perhaps in exchange for his acceptance, Wilson said he gets some say in the hire of a replacement.

“It’s super significant that we’re part of the process,” Wilson said. “Coach and I have definitely been talking about it. (General manager) John (Schneider) too. We’ve had some super-long conversations, great dialogue about the thought process of who we want.”

Wilson also rejected the notion that he and Carroll have been at odds: “There hasn’t been any contention,’’ he said.

Yet . . .

Wilson has said multiple times recently, including three times Thursday, that he wanted an offense that goes up-tempo a little more. The speedier pace has often been when Wilson is at his best, partly because it prevents defensive substitutions and adjustments. But it’s also prone to errors.

It seems to be a flashpoint.  At least, that’s what I thought. My question to Wilson would have been: “Since you mentioned your desire to go up-tempo, what happened when you said that to the coaches? Is there a reason they don’t trust you?”

Unfortunately, I was overlooked by the moderator. But I refuse to take it as a slight, adopting Wilson’s frequent refrain: “Missed opportunity.”

But somewhere in that unasked question is an answer illuminating the relationship atop the Seahawks’ power structure: Does Carroll, heading into a 10th season with Wilson, trust him to do the right thing enough times to win a Super Bowl?

Carroll’s aversion to turnovers, and Wilson’s apparent notion that turnovers are a necessary cost of doing business at the explosive end of the playbook, seems to be where desires diverge.

The Seahawks saw examples of both in 2020. The 5-0 start was propelled by an offense that averaged 34 points a game. DK Metcalf was on the short list of freshest NFL celebrities, Wilson was the early favorite for MVP, and on track to top Peyton Manning’s NFL single-season record of 55 touchdown passes.

But injuries to running backs and numerous interceptions put the dragster in the garage in favor of the family sedan. The improving defense covered for a fading offense that didn’t seem to solve for the two-deep safety look adopted by opponents.

“We’ve done so many great things,” Wilson said, “42 touchdowns . . . we needed to throw 52, maybe 60. The next coach, whoever that may be, could help us capture that. I think we’re right there.

“I think also what’s really important is also for my career to go as far as I can possibly go.’’

Wilson, 33 next fall, enters a time when he can begin to close on some of the career marks of the game’s great quarterbacks. As he has often said, he wants to be the best.

Then there’s Carroll, who said this week, “You know, I’m OK winning 17-14.”

That’s the crux of the problem for the next OC.

Schottenheimer was in the middle between two strong personalities who diverge on the best way to get to the same goal. It’s hardly anything new in the NFL, but when one is paid $140 million and the other has been given a shiny new five-year contract extension, the tension ratchets up a ways.

Naturally, Wilson thinks the divide is manageable because the offense has most of what it needs.

“I don’t think we’re crazy far off,’’ Wilson said. “We just need to make sure we take that next step to get there.

“I know coach will do everything he can to make sure we find the right person, and I’ll do whatever I can to help that process, if I can.”

It’s possible that it will all work out. The new guy just needs to be as adept at threading a needle as Wilson has been.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Tim

    I’m trying to understand why scoring 30+ points a game with a lockdown defense would be a bad thing. Wilson has shown time and time again his uncanny ability to pull out close games, so we know he’s capable. I hope he has much say in finding a coordinator to best maximize his rare talents. The clock is ticking.

    • Brent Hannon

      from what I can tell, the thinking is: it’s easier to have a lockdown defense with a run-first offense, because the defense gets more rest, and isn’t put into short-field situations due to turnovers. ie, you can’t have both: 30+ point offense, and lockdown defense.

      • art thiel

        They’re not mutually exclusive, but you’re tracking in the right direction. Ball/clock control is paramount in Carroll’s priorities. We saw Saturday from the Rams how well that works.

    • art thiel

      It all depends on the view of risk/reward. Wilson will never say that a turnover is an acceptable cost, but that’s a highly likely outcome of going deep against two-high looks. He holds the ball waiting for separation, and that’s mostly why he’s already 20th in NFL career sacks, which in some cases can be more damaging than a deep pick.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Things are going to get really interesting once it becomes clear not only who the new OC is but what the new game plan will be. How Metcalf will react to that will also be interesting. The season next year, who they play and when they play them, will be dramatically different. Players returning from injuries and free agent movements will change the divisional games. I realize the calendar changes are pretty obvious.

    This year, Seattle’s first seven games played included only one team with a winning record. The last seven games played featured the same. In total, the Hawks played four games against teams that finished with a positive record. Two of those teams went to the playoffs. Contrast that with Baltimore, who played seven games against teams with winning records and all of those games were against teams that wound up playoff bound.

    • art thiel

      It’s true the schedule was kind. Almost no top-tier QBs. But the biggest factor next year will be the lowered salary cap. Yes, it’s the same for all teams, but one team will be paying two players a combined $53M.

  • Alan Harrison

    “I think also what’s really important is also for my career to go as far as I can possibly go.’’

    I’m probably taking this quote out of context, but it’s the first time I’ve heard him put himself first (in words – in actions, that’s another story). If Anthony Lynn is the choice – and it’s a Carroll kind of choice, getting an ex-RB to run a RB offense – it will be interesting to see how things evolve.

    • art thiel

      I was struck by the bluntness of Wilson’s remark. I think most highly successful athletes feel similarly, but in a team sport with 10 others per play and 53 on game day, to be so public with naked personal ambitions runs a bit of a risk.

      • Alan Harrison

        Seeing Doug Pederson talking to the Hawks is both interesting and wince-causing. Not about him – I think he’s an excellent offensive mind. I just don’t see him taking orders from Pete to tamp down his All-Pro QB. Especially with, as you say, 2 players pulling down $53 million (which can be restructured just so much). The only trade capital they seem to have (other than the ones that won’t happen – RW isn’t going anywhere) is Tyler Lockett. If they could somehow get a late first and a 3rd day pick for him… I don’t know. Trading from weakness is never fun.

  • Bobby Cobb

    Sounds like the coach and the quarterback aren’t on the same page. What are the odds of the Seahawks trading Wilson for a crap-ton of draft picks?

    • Husky73

      ZERO

      • Bobby Cobb

        So you’re saying there’s a chance. ;)

        • Husky73

          No, I’m not.

          • Bobby Cobb

            Party pooper.

          • Husky73

            Trading Wilson (he has a no trade clause) would immediately make a 12-4 team a 4-12 team.

    • 1coolguy

      Yes I agree the odds are zero, BUT it’s an interesting business case. Burrows contract averages $9mm for 4 years, $26mm LESS than RW’s $35mm which escalates.
      Players and draft choices for RW would free up cap allowing for serious upgrades throughout the roster. It’s also questionable, again, from a strictly business view, to pay Wagner $18mm, albeit coming off an All-Pro season, but he could also be a worthy trade. $35+$18 and you’re talking about real money, and potential.
      Will it happen, no, but it’s a discussion worth noting.
      BTW, the Jaguars with the #1 draft choice (Lawrence) have $100mm in cap space!

      • Bobby Cobb

        I think I read somewhere that the timing of the trade could make the difference between freeing up salary and eating it. I guess I’m just confused. If Coach Pete can’t trust his offense to Wilson by now, why did they give him the big contract in the first place?

        • Chris Alexander

          Timing is irrelevant.

          As soon as the league year starts, the team could trade Wilson if it wanted to (or if he “forced” them to). If they do so before June 1st then they actually spend $7M more (due to the dead money on his contract) than they do if they keep him. But they CAN trade him as soon as the league year starts and “designate him as a post-June 1st move” and spread the dead money over 2 seasons. That would mean taking a $13M “hit” this year (which is $19M less than his current cap hit) and a $26M “hit” in 2023 (which is $11M less than his expected cap hit that year).

          But . . . . I’m with Art in that I think it’s a bad idea to trade Wilson.

          That said, I also think it may not ultimately be the team’s choice. I mean, technically, it is because they CAN make Russ play out his contract and then tag him for 2 or 3 more seasons, but as we’re seeing with Deshaun Watson in Houston, players can (and DO) “force” their way out of town when they become disenchanted / un-enamored with the team’s moves.

          My read – based on this recent press conference, Wilson’s “body language” during the 2nd half of the season, and the rumors that were floating around last offseason – is that Russ isn’t going to be in Seattle much longer. MAYBE 2021. MAYBE 2022. But past that? I don’t see it. And, unlike Art, I won’t be surprised if JS “stuns” us THIS offseason.

          I do NOT think that he’ll end up in Jacksonville with the #1 overall pick coming back to Seattle in return. But there are half a dozen QBs in this draft that could “manage” a game well enough to get the Hawks back to the playoffs in 2021 (and beyond) while running the prescribed “Peteball” offense.

          Personally, running that offense with Russ seems like a colossal waste of resources, but . . . what do I know?

          • Chris Alexander

            To clarify for those that don’t understand cap implications . . .

            Teams can cut or trade up to 2 players a year BEFORE June 1st and “designate” them as “post-June 1st” moves. This allows them to split the dead money over 2 seasons instead of it all accelerating onto the current year’s cap.

            However, there’s a slight “wrinkle” to consider . . .

            Let’s say the team trades Russell Wilson on March 15th and designates him as a post-June 1st move. On March 15th, the entire $39M in dead money gets applied to the team’s 2021 cap. It STAYS THERE until June 1st when $26M of it gets moved to the 2022 cap.

            The practical implication of this is that the Hawks have less $$ available to spend in free agency if they move Russ before June 1st, regardless of whether they designate him as a post-June 1st move or not. The reason for this is that if they keep Wilson, he only counts $32M against the cap instead of $39M.

            So while the END RESULT could be that the Hawks would “save” money in 2021 (and, theoretically, in 2022 as well) if they trade Wilson, the short-term result would be that the team would be even more hamstrung than if they keep him.

            NOT an easy choice for the Seahawks . . . assuming they’re even considering it.

      • art thiel

        Again. he has a no-trade clause. Again, it’s a bad idea in any event.

    • woofer

      It is surely unlikely to happen, but there is a certain financial logic to moving Wilson. In the age of salary caps, there isn’t much economic sense in paying a franchise QB wage to Wilson and then underutilizing him as a game manager in a run-oriented offense.

      Wilson’s market value is now at its peak. Trade him for draft picks and salary space, then build a truly dominant defense that can shut down the opposition and score points on its own. Hire a conservative OC, a durable work horse RB, a huge good-hands tight end and a reliable second-tier QB. Maybe, if we’re really lucky, Trent Dilfer can be coaxed out of retirement.

      • Bobby Cobb

        Your first paragraph highlights the quandary the Seahawks are facing. I don’t know why you pay all that money to Wilson only to turn him into “a game manager in a run-oriented offense.” If they’re not going to turn him loose on offense and build the team around his style of play, they need to turn him loose on the market and get what they can. Keeping him and then hamstringing him seems like the height of foolishness.

        • art thiel

          Wilson has been among the league leaders annually in explosive plays. But he flat-out had a bad game vs. Rams, who have a great D. He’s never has been nor should he be a game manager, he just needs to accept more quick game until forces a safety to come into the box.

      • art thiel

        If you’re a homeowner, do you burn down the house when the toilet plugs up? Seahawks invested in Wilson because he was really good, not because he was perfect. All great current and former QBs have games and seasons that are way below their career averages. Wilson stubbornly refuses to grow taller, and he won’t get faster. But he and the team have to adjust. He does, however, need to make sure he cares less about being the best than in winning games.

    • art thiel

      He has a no-trade clause. But he could waive it. In either case, bad idea.

  • 3 Lions

    Pete may want to a grind it out run dominant offense but we don’t have the personnel for it. The Rams, Packers, Bucs & Saints all have better offenses and excel in the run and the pass. Letting Russ Cook doesn’t mean he has to go deep all the time. His gift is his unpredictability and letting him create opens up everything & wears defenses out. We need some Pro Bowl lineman.

    • Tim

      Amen.

    • art thiel

      To your point, O-line production was better (and healthier) in the 5-0 start than anytime thereafter. Iupati/Simmons at LG was not much help against Donald.

      • 3 Lions

        It will be interesting to see how the Packers deal with Rams defense.

        • Husky73

          Quick passes.

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  • Husky73

    Things will look, sound and feel better in July.

  • 1coolguy

    Interestingly today Holmgren was on the radio and regarding up-tempo and how important it is, after Bill Parcells retired, a HOF coach with serious defense DNA, he told Holmgren his up tempo game plan with the Seahawks gave him real problems to plan for.

    • art thiel

      There’s a reason most good offenses feature it at some time.

  • 1coolguy

    After seeing the record breaking sacks total for RW, second only to Favre, but definitely on a record pace, and listening to many in pregame shows and the radio saying the same thing, WHY is it so darned difficult for RW to throw the ball away? The number of sacks he takes will someday cause injury, and if each one loses 5-10 yards, it is MUCH more damaging than throwing it away, near a receiver or out of bounds.
    QB’s are taught now in high school to get rid of the ball, and watching the top QB’s, Brady, Brees, etc, they consistently dump off the ball underneath or throw it away. For these guys, 3 seconds is getting long – for RW, 4-5 seconds is common.
    So I hope the new OC locks RW in a video room showing an endless loop of Brady, Montana, Brees, etc so maybe he’ll recognize how the best do it.
    It is SO much easier blocking for a QB that gets rid of the ball quickly, so it helps the performance of the OL too.
    I suggest with this one change in RW’s game, he will move up a level and benefit the team greatly.

    • art thiel

      Been that way for years with Wilson, and teams plan for it. In his youth, he could always extend plays with his legs, but defenses, especially the Rams, are committed to keeping him in the pocket, where his height reduces completion chances.

  • Warchild_70

    Only thing Russ needs to give his input is that he need’s to speed up his reads or just dink and dunk until an opening appears. Like when the two D back’s gets closer then uncork a moon ball to any one of our WR’s, TE’s. As for the run game? May be borrow a Caterpillar D 10 for a full back?? Lord knows I miss John L Williams #32.

    • art thiel

      Young fans don’t know about fullbacks, much less John L.

      • Warchild_70

        True Art most folks don’t recall some of those FB that cleared the road. When I saw J L in front of tailback Shaun A, It could bet the barn and the Buick that the First Down / Touch Down is coming.