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Collapse of the Seahawks becomes first major test for ownership since 2009

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Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

For the first time since 2009, the Seattle Seahawks are quite clearly one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their 3-8 record is only better than the Detroit Lions in the NFC, and barely superior to the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

This was not how this season was supposed to unfold. There were high expectations after the great start to 2020 cratered to a mediocre and all too familiar ending of an early postseason exit. The subsequent (and somewhat manufactured) offseason drama created a sense of uncertainty unlike any other point in time in the Pete Carroll era. They needed to get 2021 right to some degree or else the house of cards would come tumbling down.

It’s not just that the Seahawks are 3-8, it’s the way they’ve unraveled. The offense is dead last in time of possession and punts literally more than half the time they have the ball. The defense may be 7th in points allowed but they are major culprits for their own lengthy amount of time on the field due to a lack of sacks, turnovers, negative plays, etc. Advanced metrics (EPA/play, DVOA) do not paint this unit in a positive light.

You cannot make a serious argument that the Seahawks are a good team that was just a bit unlucky. They’ve played a ton of bad, uneven football for virtually the entire season. And while Russell Wilson did miss three games due to injury and has looked dreadful since then, the failures of the Seahawks look more glaring when the Arizona Cardinals went 2-1 without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, and the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys were able to win road games with Tyler Huntley and Cooper Rush respectively.

So now what?

Well unfortunately we still have six more games left in the season and the Seahawks could conceivably finish with 10+ losses for the first time since, you guessed it, 2009. Pete Carroll and John Schneider just received contract extensions, whereas Russell Wilson’s deal is up in 2023.

The future of Wilson may very well be tied to the future of the front office, at which point the key question can only be answered by Jody Allen and Vulcan Inc ownership.

There’s been a lot of speculation on this site and among Seahawks fans about Jody’s involvement in the organization and her interest in the team. Recently Pete Carroll confirmed that him and John Schneider both had a “normal” (emphasis on that word) midseason meeting with her prior to the Cardinals loss.

Jody’s brother, the late Paul Allen, was very much in the background as far as his handling of the Seahawks. One of the reasons for that is Allen was a bigger basketball fan than football fan, so his reputation was that of a hands-off owner and not a micro-manager.

“He’s got a big life that he leads, and he’s doing a lot of stuff, so he checks in on us periodically and keeps track of stuff from afar,” Carroll said during the Super Bowl season. “He’s not an on-site owner. . . . He cares a lot, but he doesn’t demonstrate his care by trying to run things.”

From published stories, Paul was more heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the Portland Trail Blazers than he was for the Seahawks up until his death in 2018. One thing consistent with Paul’s time as Seahawks owner was head coach stability.

In his 20+ years as owner, Paul only ever fired Dennis Erickson and Jim Mora, and he inherited Erickson before bringing in Mike Holmgren. Even the Jim Mora hiring was a Tim Ruskell call that Allen mercifully extinguished after a disastrous single season. Hiring Holmgren brought Seattle back into the playoffs immediately, and after some rocky seasons they became the first truly perennial postseason squad in franchise history and an NFC champion. Hiring Carroll produced two NFC Championships, a Super Bowl win, and a level of sustained success few have managed.

As for what Jody Allen will do? We don’t know. There’s just not enough information to make a grand conclusion one way or the other. And it’s okay to say there isn’t an answer yet because prior to this season, there hasn’t been some catastrophe to warrant ownership’s involvement in over a decade. We don’t know in-depth about her passion for the team or her knowledge of the sport or the people within Vulcan Inc and the Seahawks organization to make a well-informed guess. At a minimum I don’t think she’s clueless and uncaring nor is there any evidence to suggest otherwise.

But that isn’t to say we can’t take clues from the Blazers, the other Vulcan-owned team, as far as her decision making.

This past offseason the Blazers fired head coach Terry Stotts after nine seasons with the team, eight of which ended in playoff appearances and the team’s first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2000. It was a warranted firing because it felt like the team was jogging in place given they have one of the NBA’s highest payrolls. Reporting from The Athletic indicated that Jody Allen and ownership put the Blazers’ 2020-21 season under a microscope, and despite being a perennial playoff team, the many early (and often non-competitive) exits prompted Stotts’ departure.

When Paul was alive, Stotts was reportedly on the verge of being fired after an embarrassing sweep against the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017-18. Portland made the WCF after Paul’s death, and Stotts was given a contract extension that he ultimately did not see out. General manager Neil Olshey also got an extension through 2024, but he is now under investigation (launched by Allen) for workplace misconduct. His roster and salary cap mismanagement, newfound disregard for draft capital, and completely off-putting, blame-deflecting behavior is grounds for termination in itself but that’s just me venting. Portland has a more traditional HC/GM structure compared to the Seahawks, but you get the idea.

(By pure coincidence, both the Blazers and Seahawks face offseasons in which their superstar players — Damian Lillard and Russell Wilson — could be departing and neither of them at present is playing well and both are dealing/have dealt with injuries that have affected their respective games to a degree.)

It’s possible that Allen and everyone else involved in job evaluation will see this season as a blip and that past success and the circumstances of Wilson’s injury should grant everyone involved another season to get it together. Should the same problems persist in 2022 then the red button is pressed to blow this whole thing up. I don’t agree with it and think there are signs that this ship is going down not unlike the end of the Holmgren years, but I can envision that as a reason not to make drastic changes. Alternatively, the shake-up is happening and we won’t see all three of John, Pete, and Russell together come Week 1 next year; it’s just a matter of who leaves and how their respect contract situations are handled.

Whatever the case, this is the first time since Paul’s passing that the Seahawks have experienced the kind of turmoil that merits ownership’s serious assessment of the front office, head coach, yes, even the franchise quarterback. These decisions will go a long way towards shaping up the long-term outlook of this franchise, which has experienced so much winning with little interruption for nearly two decades that many younger/newer fans know not of the meandering mediocrity that was nearly the whole of the 1990s.

Buckle up, Seahawks fans. If you’ve been wondering aloud what Jody Allen and Vulcan Inc think about the direction of this team, you’re about to get your answer very soon, but not before we endure the rest of this season first.