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8 years after Pete Carroll started to breathe life into Seahawks, he remains consistent

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Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

After 12 games in 2011, the Seattle Seahawks stood at 5-7 but there were some positive takeaways for a team that Pete Carroll was desperately trying to separate from the Jim Mora transition year. The Seahawks had been a massively overachieving 7-9 in Carroll’s first season (despite a playoff win, Seattle was 30th in DVOA and only saved by its 2nd overall ranking in special teams) and stacked up a few hopeless losses (33-17 to the 49ers, 24-0 to the Steelers, 34-12 to the Bengals, and a 23-13 loss to the Cowboys that was worse than that) to open 2011’s first half.

But then they tacked together a 22-17 win over the eventual 12-4 Ravens that was monumental for its 5:52 final drive to end the game thanks to Carroll’s often derided commitment to the run game. Next was a 24-7 road win over the Rams as the game seemed to come much easier to the young Seahawks this season than it had against St. Louis a season prior. Following a loss to Washington, three straight wins by 17 or more led to a .500 record and an opportunity for Carroll’s first winning season in Seattle despite him still being a few months shy of becoming closely acquainted with Russell Wilson.

The first test would be the team that frustratingly seemed to be more than a year ahead of where the Seahawks wanted to be under Carroll: The 11-3 49ers with first year head coach Jim Harbaugh were coming to town. The first meeting in Week 1 was a paint job of reality. A win and maybe Seattle wasn’t that far behind after all.

The game featured many of the names that would remain prominent as the two franchises “raced arms” from 2012-2013:

Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Zach Miller, Max Unger, Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, and Brandon Browner among those on the Seahawks.

Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson, and Carlos Rogers among those playing that day for the 49ers.

Seattle took an early 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson to Baldwin. They led 10-3 at the half. Carroll had the defense on its footing and he was still months from being more acquainted with Bobby Wagner.

On the first drive of the second half, Smith fumbled but scooped it back in. On the next play, SF converted a 4th-and-2. Three plays later, a Gore touchdown tied the score. Two David Akers field goals later, the 49ers led 16-10 with about 12 minutes on the clock. Soon, a Lynch touchdown of the same distance as Gore’s puts Seattle up 17-16 with under 7 to play.

The defense was getting the job done all day on the scoreboard but momentary lapses happened. The 49ers rushed for 178 yards — a season-worst for the Seahawks D. but Lynch had 102 yards and San Francisco also a season-worst day in run defense — and the slack of a 1-point lead was not enough.

Despite it all, the Seahawks were maybe one average quarterback from beating a team that finished 13-3. It would have been their sixth win in their last seven tries, mostly all over good teams save the Rams.

Seattle fell short that day and the following week in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Cardinals, but this 7-9 was nothing like the previous year’s 7-9. There was a lot more hope this time around and we saw the beginnings of what would become a November-January dynasty under Carroll and Wilson, the dynastic powers of which have extended all the way to present following their 37-30 win over the Vikings on Monday night.

And hopefully still alive and well when they host the 49ers in a late season game once again this coming Week 17. This is not to look over the Rams, Panthers, and Cardinals that await to face the Seahawks in the three games before then, but isn’t it nice to see how consistent Carroll has been over the last nine seasons when every NFL franchise other than the B-B one has failed to maintain a run of success for even more than two or three years.

Including those Niners.

San Francisco went 13-3 in Harbaugh’s first season, falling to the Giants in the NFC Championship game, 20-17 in overtime.

They went 11-4-1 in 2012, losing 34-31 in the Super Bowl against the Ravens.

Then 12-4 in 2013, splitting the season series to the Seahawks and losing the division by a game, therefore going to Seattle in one of the most well-regarded playoff games of all-time.

Then 8-8, 5-11, 2-14, 6-10, and 4-12.

In the five seasons between “The Tip” and today, the 49ers had a record of 25-55, 0 winning seasons, four losing seasons, four head coaches, three top-10 picks, two top-two picks, two GMs. That was what the Niners had to do to get from tiring and subsequent firing of Harbaugh to the unflappable support of Kyle Shanahan.

(That will certainly flap if he can’t get past the Seahawks.)

In the five seasons between Seattle winning the Super Bowl over the Broncos and today, the Seahawks went 12-4, 10-6, 10-5-1, 9-7, and 10-6. They had a record of 51-28-1, went to another Super Bowl, made four postseason trips, won four playoff games, and traded down every year, including out of the first round entirely three times.

Carroll did a lot more with a lot fewer resources. Less cap room, fewer draft picks, harder schedule (against division rivals, in theory mostly, but against the average NFL team, especially in the AFC, absolutely), the Seahawks quietly turned over their roster just the same as they did in 2010 and managed to maintain competitive results.

When Seattle hosts San Francisco in a few weeks, the only name that will have played in that Week 16 contest in 2011 is K.J. Wright. But there’s been so much consistency in how Carroll has maintained the status quo that it probably feels like nothing has even changed. The players are unique compared to their predecessors, but also just as hungry to prove themselves against a division rival that many are calling the best team in the conference just as they did eight years ago.

Baldwin becomes Tyler Lockett. Tate becomes DK Metcalf. Miller becomes Jacob Hollister. Lynch splits like an embryo into baby Chris Carson and baby Rashaad Penny. Sherman becomes Shaquill Griffin. Browner becomes Tre Flowers, complete with a “w, e, and r” in their names. Kam becomes Quandre Diggs. Earl becomes Bradley McDougald. Clemons becomes Jadeveon Clowney. Mebane becomes Jarran Reed. Wright stays.

Of course, Wilson and Wagner have witnessed all of the last eight years too, representing an important stability, much like Carroll.

Carroll, who in addition to churning the roster day by day, year by year, has also gone from Darrell Bevell to Brian Schottenheimer, and from Gus Bradley to Dan Quinn to Kris Richard to Ken Norton. They do his bidding, but must always be able to handle taking the reins without having to consult him as he focuses on chewing gum and kicking ass.

And he never runs out of bubble gum. Or ass kicks. Not him, but other teams, absolutely.

The Cardinals came on for 34 wins from 2013-2015, including an appearance in the NFC Championship game, and have gone 7-8-1, 8-8, 3-13, and 3-8-1 in the four years since. Three head coaches, two top-10 quarterbacks.

The LA Rams delivered 13 straight seasons without a winning record, then went 24-8 with a Super Bowl appearance over the last two. Not out of it by any stretch in 2019, we see the cracks forming and a cap space bulldozer approaching.

In 2010, the Packers won a Super Bowl, and have failed to return in the eight years since, posting losing records in each of the last two seasons. Mike McCarthy was finally fired in 2018.

In 2011, the Giants won a Super Bowl, and have gone to the postseason just one time since, including a 10-34 record since the start of 2017. Pat Shurmur is in danger of not getting to his third season, just like Ben McAdoo before him.

The Ravens have won just a single playoff game since winning the Super Bowl in 2012.

The Broncos beat the Panthers in the 2015 Super Bowl. Denver is on its third head coach since and won’t be posting a winning record this season either. Carolina fired Ron Rivera on Tuesday as they seem likely to post their third losing record in the last four years.

The Falcons lost the 28-3 lead and Quinn doesn’t need a miracle to keep his job, he needs a time machine.

The Eagles won in 2017 and they are 14-14 since, outscoring their last 28 opponents by a total of nine points. Hey, I’ll take any point differential you got if you’re winning as often as the Seahawks are winning, but Philly isn’t because they don’t look good most weeks. Seattle still does.

They have since the middle of 2011.

I relate less to myself eight years ago than I do relate to the Seattle Seahawks of eight years ago. Carroll’s Seahawks have been far steadier than my own psyche, my own set of life circumstances, my own hopes, dreams, and desires. Maybe I should have had a harder commitment to my run game, I don’t know, but even as virtually every name on the roster changes, the belief that Seattle will win every week doesn’t.

The belief that they have a chance regardless of the score doesn’t.

The belief that they’ll be the hardest team to beat in November and December doesn’t.

The belief that Carroll will find new talent and trade down and make deals and turn a nobody into a compensatory pick doesn’t.

These are the Seahawks. These are Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. They’ve been that way for ten years for a reason. They’ll be that way for at least another four games.

And that’s hard to beat.