In the wake of the loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7, one of the decisions of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll that has been analyzed, scrutinized, discussed and over-dissected was the choice by Carroll to attempt a 53-yard field goal on 4th & 3 midway through the third quarter. With the weather acting as a hindrance to the field goal attempt, even with Russell Wilson having a sub-par day, many fans would have preferred the Hawks to try to convert a first down.
So, that leads into Pete Carroll’s comments, as reported by FieldGulls own Mookie Alexander on Tuesday, about how the way things unfolded is simply the Seahawks mentality. Further, Carroll added that that is how the team’s mentality will stay, as there is nothing forcing the team to change, which is where the problem comes from.
Word for word, Carroll’s quote was, “That’s the way our mentality’s going to be and there’s no reason for us to change.” The issue is that there are a multitude of reasons why the team should change, a whole host of reasons why that old school mentality needs to be updated and a laundry list of just how off target that quote is.
Thus, while Carroll is sticking to his “identity” mantra, and continues to plug away at the idea the Hawks are a running team that plays a physical brand of football, the league is literally evolving in front of our eyes. To illustrate just how much the league is changing while the Seahawks stand still, this tweet from former Field Gulls and current TheAthletic.com contributor Ben Baldwin shows the Seahawks fourth down attempt rate when the team’s winning percentage is greater than twenty percent since Pete Carroll arrived. As can be seen in the chart, since Russell Wilson became a Seahawk in 2012, Seattle has gone for it on fourth down situations where the winning percentage was above twenty percent anywhere from a rate in the high teens to the high twenties.
This is now the 4th straight season the Seahawks have been more conservative than league average on 4th downs pic.twitter.com/le8P6ewdzD— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) October 21, 2019
In fact, over 2018 and 2019 combined, when faced with a fourth down and a winning percentage above twenty percent, the Seahawks are actually going for it more often than they did during Wilson’s earlier seasons. However, while the Hawks fall below league average in terms of aggressiveness in these situations, compared to the 2012-2015 timeframe when Seattle came in above average. Over the last five years teams across the league have increased the rate at which they attempt to go for it on fourth down by more than 50%, while the Seahawks have essentially continued to just tread water.
Over just the last two years the rate at which teams go for it on fourth down with a winning percentage above twenty percent has gone from the low twenties to the low thirties, and yet the Seahawks remain content to stay just as they have been. This is a perfect example of the game evolving, but a team failing to adapt.
This, in and of itself, obviously won’t lead to the team suddenly falling flat on its face and failing overnight. However, it’s just another example of how the game and the league are changing in ways that could put the Seahawks at a competitive disadvantage relative to the rest of the league.