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It’s not just ‘one bad season’

Seattle Seahawks v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks are going to finish below .500 for the first time since 2011 and could have 10+ losses for the first time since 2009. There have been calls for the trio of Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and Russell Wilson to be broken up. In the eyes of some fans (self-included) the Carroll era needs to end at the very least.

While I wouldn’t say this is a prevalent take on social media or among the broader Seahawks fanbase, here’s a small collection of tweets whose opinions pretty much align with the idea of staying the course and that 2021 was just a one-off bad year.

Respectfully, I disagree completely. I don’t think we have to go very far back down memory lane to find the previous “bad” season from the Seahawks.

The 2017 team crashed from 8-4 to 9-7 and was the first one of the Russell Wilson era to miss the playoffs. While you can point to the career-ending injuries to Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor and season-ending injury to Richard Sherman as major reasons Seattle failed to reach the postseason, it was the mostly healthy offense that damaged everything.

Seattle, on purpose, trotted out a starting offensive line of Rees Odhiambo, Luke Joeckel (at $7 million guaranteed), Justin Britt, Mark Glowinski, and Germain Ifedi on opening day against the Green Bay Packers. The second-cheapest offensive line in the NFL. Here’s the result:

It took a midseason trade for Duane Brown to achieve some level of respectability for a truly inept offensive line. Seattle’s six running backs combined for 994 yards on 301 carries, which is 2001 Eddie George levels of ineffective. They were one of the worst running teams in NFL history. Russell Wilson was working miracles and shouldered such a comically high percentage of the offensive workload that he was the team’s leading rusher while also throwing over 550 times.

With the playoffs at stake, the Seahawks offense put up consecutive sub-150 yard games against the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys, and it’s the heroics of the defense in the Cowboys game that kept their season alive into Week 17. Their defeats to the Washington Football Team (severely injured at the time and winless on the road after beating Seattle), Arizona Cardinals (playing Drew Stanton at QB), and Rams (42-7) were nothing short of embarrassing for a variety of reasons.

That was an undeniable down year for the Seahawks and Pete Carroll responded by letting go of Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, and Kris Richard. But it was also an indictment of both Carroll and John Schneider that after watching Wilson play through injury in 2016 with the literal cheapest line, they did the absolute bare minimum in the offseason and things got worse.

Alright, so I’ve given you the only other clearly bad season. But what about the others? Well lemme provide my personal summary of every year under Russ, and I’m going to make distinctly separate eras when dividing the ten seasons into two sections.

2012-2016: The Legion of Boom Era

2012: Great regular season, heartbreaking but encouraging ending in playoffs

2013: Great regular season, won the freaking Super Bowl

2014: Great regular season, won another NFC Championship, yup definitely won NFC Championship

2015: Very good regular season after slow start, slightly disappointing Divisional Round ending but valiant comeback against team that finished with NFL’s best record

2016: Good regular season, disappointing but predictable playoff exit given injuries to key players (Wilson, Lockett, Earl Thomas, etc.)

2017-2021: Life beyond the LOB

2017: Underwhelming regular season, missed playoffs

2018: Very good regular season defying preseason expectations, extraordinarily maddening Wild Card loss given stubborn run-heavy gameplan

2019: Very good regular season, frustrating Divisional Round loss against Packers as it was another playoff game where offense took forever to show up

2020: Great regular season (even with hindsight of easy schedule), disappointing, frustrating, and alarming ending with home loss to division rival

2021: Shit sandwich of a season, likely Seattle’s first time finishing last in its division for the first time since 1996.

In those first five seasons, I count three NFC West titles, two #1 overall seeds, eight playoff wins, two NFC Championships, and a Super Bowl. The last five seasons have produced just a single NFC West title, a single playoff win, and two failures to make the playoffs. There’s a chance that every division rival will have won more playoff games since 2017 than the Seahawks in that same time span. The Rams and 49ers already have, so it’s up to the Arizona Cardinals to win twice in the postseason.

This is not a team that is on an upward trajectory. They have descended from Super Bowl caliber to a playoff non-contender to a cellar occupant. In four of their last five postseason exits they did not hold a 2nd half lead, and in three of those games they never led at all.

Rough Drafts

We have rehashed the draft classes many times over, but we might as well do this again. By the end of the 2016 season, only Luke Willson remained from the Class of 2013 and Paul Richardson, Justin Britt, Cassius Marsh, and Kevin Pierre-Louis made up the remaining 2014 class. Only Britt was a starter on either side of the ball. At the start of 2017, Marsh and KPL were gone, and when 2017 was finished only Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett remained from the 2015 class.

(Side note: The Christine Michael pick was a more egregiously bad use of draft capital than Rashaad Penny)

Recent seasons have seen the likes of Shaquill Griffin, Jarran Reed, David Moore, Chris Carson, Rasheem Green, Ethan Pocic, DK Metcalf, Michael Dickson, etc. either start or played considerable snap counts, but this tier does not compare to the 2010-2012 crop.

I’d argue that the drafts the Seahawks needed to ace were the ones during Wilson’s rookie contract and through his first extension in 2015. They weren’t remotely close on that front, and I believe Pete the front office guy has consequently exacerbated the shortcomings of Pete the coach.

Born Under Bad Signs

Beyond the draft shortcomings are just a series questionable if not downright bad free agent signings and trades. Cary Williams, Luke Joeckel, Bradley Sowell, J’Marcus Webb, Ed Dickson, Eddie Lacy, Blair Walsh, and Ziggy Ansah — not to mention the borderline obsession with trying to revive the careers of draft busts like Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo.

Look at this damn offseason from 2020! Only Brandon Shell and Geno Smith remain on the 2021 Seahawks roster and everyone else is on another team or out of the NFL entirely.

And I cannot go through this column without noting the insane gamble that was trading two firsts for Jamal Adams, who may be a very good player but I said it then and I’ll say it again: that’s the type of “win now” deal that gets you fired if you don’t win now. Well they aren’t winning at the moment and they won’t have a top-10 pick next year at a time when it’s abundantly clear there is a considerable talent gap on this roster compared to the league’s best teams.

The Seahawks have gone from “good process, good results” to “bad process, good results” and now they’ve reached the inevitable “bad process, bad results” quadrant. Yes, Wilson’s injury might be the difference between Seattle’s sub-.500 record and another playoff appearance, but it also completely misses the point. What have you seen out of the 2021 Seahawks independent of its quarterback play that suggests this season’s ceiling would’ve been anything higher other than another early playoff exit? You can only jog in place for so long before you fall off the treadmill. The 2021 season is not reason in itself for the Seahawks to strongly consider an organizational shake-up; the preceding 6-7 years up ‘til now have culminated in the disaster you’ve seen and will be seeing for three more weeks.

Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and Russell Wilson are the three main constants throughout this era of Seahawks football, and we should never lose sight of what they’ve meant to this franchise and the city of Seattle. With that said, all good things must come to an end at some point, and I do not see a scenario where this trio can return the Seahawks back to its formerly elite status. As for who should stay and who should go? I personally prefer Wilson stay and that for all of the criticism he’s received over the last 18 months, we need to see him under a more modern, offensive-minded head coach. Maybe he is past his prime, or maybe he just needs an offseason to get healthy and be free of Carroll’s vision of how an NFL offense should look.

What will most likely happen? Probably one more go ‘round with everybody or worse, Carroll and Schneider stay but they trade Wilson. If either of those things comes to fruition, I anticipate more than just “one bad season” in the near future.