As 2021 comes to a close Friday, the Seattle Seahawks still have a pair of games left as they close out the first losing season for the franchise since 2011. Up first is a visit from the Detroit Lions in Week 16, followed by a trip to the warmer temperatures of and the not so friendly confines of State Farm Stadium to visit the Ghosts of Glendale as they take on the Arizona Cardinals.
And then begins the offseason, an offseason which is certain to bring change.
Those changes are certain to include significant turnover of the roster, with the team set to see a large number of starters eligible to test their worth in free agency in March. That list of names includes three of five starters on the offensive line, three of five starters in the secondary, both of the top two tight ends, both of the top two rushers on the team as well as two starters on the defensive line. Add in the questions regarding players who suffered not insignificant injuries, including Jamal Adams, Chris Carson and Tre Brown, and the front office and coaching staff have their work cut out for themselves to rebuild the roster for 2022.
That, of course, leads into the question of who will be leading the rebuild, which of course comes to the question everyone around the Seahawks seems to be asking these days: Will Pete Carroll and John Schneider be back in 2022? The answers to those questions obviously depend on who one asks and their view for what would be best for the team going forward. However, while many are certain that changes need to be made, what seems glossed over by many is that change isn’t always as drastic as replacing someone.
Many have pointed to the willingness of the Portland Trail Blazers, who are relevant to the conversation due to the fact they are owned and controlled by the same entity and people who control the Seahawks. Thus, it makes sense to at least observe what went down with the Blazers this past summer in constructing an opinion on the outlook for what will go down at the VMAC in the coming weeks.
The short answer that many are quick to point out is, of course, that Portland fired Terry Stotts in spite of string of eight straight playoff appearances, but first round exits in four of the past five years. This is not all that different from the Seahawks, who have failed to make it past the Wild Card round of the playoffs four times in the past five seasons. However, stopping the analysis at that point fails to take a couple key points into consideration. The first is the obvious fact that Stotts had just a single season remaining on his contract with the Blazers, while Pete Carroll and John Schneider are signed through the 2025 and 2026 seasons, respectively. Jody Allen seems unlikely to be short on assets, give what is available under the Vulcan umbrella, so it seems unlikely that the $75M-$80M or so price tag that could come with moving on from Pete or John will be the determining factor in whether or not the pair are retained.
That said, there is one major item that can be taken away from how things went down with the Trail Blazers, and that is that, at least according to reports, firing Stotts was not necessarily the starting point for the conversation.
Specifically, prior to being fired, Stott and the Blazers were in discussions regarding a contract extension. However, when the two sides could not reach an agreement on what an extension would look like, they opted to split. This discussion regarding the extension prior to the decision to move on could be seen as a key clue to what kind of changes could be coming to the Hawks.
Specifically, in early December Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported that Jody Allen doesn’t see the Seahawks 2021 season as a “one-year thing” after a decade of success. So, if ownership doesn’t look at it as a one-year thing, then it would seem prudent for fans to evaluate the situation from that perspective. Thus, if it’s not looked at as a one-year thing and rather is viewed as part of a longer trend then the logical next step is that changes will be coming.
Which brings the discussion back to where things started regarding the status of Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Will they be back? Will they both be fired? Will one be kept and the other fired? If one is fired and one is kept, which one stays and which one goes?
Those questions, however, are all based on the assumption that changes means someone is getting fired, which may not necessarily be the case. Looping back to the parallel with the Trail Blazers, Stotts, the team and Vulcan went into things discussing how to make things work going forward and ended up parting ways because they apparently didn’t agree on what structure would be best. It’s not unreasonable at all to think that is the exact same situation that could play out at the VMAC in the coming weeks. Specifically, if Allen doesn’t look at the downfall of the team as a one-year thing, it would not be unreasonable to look to make changes that keep both Pete and John (along with Russ for those worrying), but which changes the power structure withing the Seahawks organization.
Specifically, if Allen feels there are issues with the roster, a roster over which Pete has final authority, then it’s entirely possible that Jody could look to how her brother managed the team nearly two decades ago. After a 7-9 record in 2002 that saw the ‘Hawks miss the playoffs for the third season in a row under Executive Vice President/General Manager and Head Coach Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks fired Holmgren from his GM position, leaving him able to focus solely on the coaching. Obviously, for the Seahawks of today, Schneider holds the Executive Vice President/General Manager title, but he does not possess full authority over the roster, which remains with Carroll.
And that’s where it’s not difficult at all to see a conversation being had between Carroll, Schneider and Allen. In particular, taking the reports that Allen does not look at 2021 as a single poor season at face value, it’s not hard to imagine Carroll being asked to give up his authority over the roster. Surrendering that responsibility and allowing Schneider to take care of the roster while focusing on coaching might be a hard pill for Carroll to swallow, but Holmgren isn’t the only coach who found more success after surrendering roster control. The latter portion of Andy Reid’s tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, the part where the team was not good, was after he had been given authority over the roster. Now, with the Kansas City Chiefs, he is able to focus more on coaching and less on the roster, which may or may not have played a role in delivering a Lombardi trophy to Chiefs fans, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
Thus, the key question when it comes to the kind of changes the Seahawks could see this offseason might not be who gets fired. The key question might be whether Carroll will be willing to give up some of the extensive control he enjoys over the team, or whether he’d prefer the two sides agree to mutually part ways than cede control to others.
So, while many will certainly continue on their chosen path of, “Fire Pete!”, “Fire John!” or “Trade Russ!”, at the end of the day it may prove true that the change most needed is some simple tweaking and fine tuning, rather than a full fledged overhaul.