The Seahawks ran the ball on 55% of their offensive plays in 2012.
That is the high-water mark under Pete Carroll.
Seattle had 974 offensive plays that season and ran the ball on 536 of them.
The following season, they ran the ball on 509 of their 973 offensive plays (52.3%) and won the Super Bowl.
They got back to the Super Bowl the year after that by running the ball on 51.4% of their offensive plays. Some would say they should have run it one more time.
The only other season during Carroll’s tenure that the Seahawks ran the ball more than 50% of the time was 2018 (534 runs out of 1,012 plays).
Last season, the Seahawks ran the ball 413 times. On a league-low 954 offensive plays. That’s a rushing percentage of 43.3%.
Interestingly, that wasn’t the low-water mark for a Carroll-led Seahawks team. It actually barely makes the bottom five.
Here are the Seahawks’ rushing percentages since 2010, listed from highest to lowest, with where they ranked league-wide in brackets:
- 2012: 55% (#1)
- 2018: 52.8% (#1)
- 2013: 52.3% (#1)
- 2014: 51.4% (#2)
- 2015: 48.3% (#4)
- 2019: 46% (#6)
- 2011: 44.3% (#12)
- 2021: 43.3% (#13)
- 2017: 40.6% (#20)
- 2020: 40.2% (#19)
- 2010: 39.9% (#27)
- 2016: 39.8% (#16)
Before moving on, let’s look at the bottom of that list in chronological order.
2010 (39.9%): This was Carroll’s first year at the helm. The team was so bereft of talent that a bazillion roster transactions occurred before the team played its first game. Marshawn Lynch was acquired midseason and finished the year as the team’s leading rusher with 573 yards on 165 carries (3.5 average).
Aftermath: Seattle became the first team to win a division title with a losing record (7-9) and then unleashed a Beast Quake on the defending champions, the New Orleans Saints, in the playoffs. Granted, they lost to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round but ... did anyone really care after re-watching the Beast Quake run a few (hundred) times?
2016 (39.8%): The team’s leading rusher was Christine Michael with a whopping 469 yards. Thomas Rawls was #2 with 349. Neither player appeared in more than 9 games and each had 7 starts. Their combined yards per carry was 3.6.
Aftermath: Seattle won the NFC West title with a record of 10-5-1, soundly defeated the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round (26-6), then lost in the divisional round to the Atlanta Falcons.
2017 (40.6%): This may be best remembered as the year that Seattle’s quarterback led the team in rushing. And unlike 2019, when Lamar Jackson’s 1,206 rushing yards led the Baltimore Ravens (with RB Mark Ingram also topping the 1,000-yard mark), RW3 leading the Seahawks in rushing wasn’t a good thing. Making matters worse, Russell Wilson’s team-leading total was only 586 yards (6.2 average) and that was still more than double the next best total (Mike Davis, 240, 3.5).
Aftermath: The Seahawks finished 2nd in the NFC West, but with only 9 wins vs. 7 losses, they watched the playoffs from home.
2020 (40.2%): Seattle may have won the division title with a 12-4 record, but this season is a blur and when I try to focus on it, all I see is the Los Angeles Rams kicking our butts in the playoffs. Yuck!
2021 (43.3%): Yes, Rashaad Penny ended the year on a high note, but the Seahawks finished the season with a 7-10 record and were out of the playoff chase around Thanksgiving. Lipstick, meet pig.
Now, let’s look at the top 5 seasons under Pete Carroll - again, in chronological order:
2012 (55%): Marshawn Lynch led the Seahawks to the playoffs with a career-high 1,590 rushing yards.
Aftermath: The Seahawks finished 2nd in the division, won a wildcard game, spotted the Falcons a 20-point lead in the division round, and almost ... almost ... pulled off an epic comeback.
2013 (52.3%): Super Bowl Champions!
2014 (51.4%): Conference Champions + one play away from back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
2015 (48.3%): The Beast Mode era drew to a close. Thomas Rawls led the team in rushing with 830 yards. RW3 was the second-leading rusher with 553.
Aftermath: Seattle finished in 2nd place with a 10-6 record, defeated the Minnesota Vikings in one of the coldest and ugliest wildcard games imaginable, then went belly-up against the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round.
2018 (52.8%): Chris Carson’s first full(ish) season - 14 games, 14 starts, 1,151 yards on 247 carries (4.7 average) with 9 touchdowns. Seattle’s 2nd-leading rusher was Mike Davis with 514 yards on 112 carries (4.6 average) with 4 touchdowns.
Aftermath: Seattle finished the season with 10 up and 6 down and then lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the wildcard round.
So . . . What’s the point of this exercise?
There isn’t one.
I mean, one could look at the data and infer that when Seattle is among the league leaders in rushing percentage, anything is possible, including Super Bowl titles and near-misses.
One could also infer that the seasonal results are sub-optimal when the Seahawks are not among the league leaders in rushing percentage.
I don’t necessarily view it that way.
I think there are a lot of nuances that this data doesn’t capture.
That said, I found the exercise interesting and the data in this article does make me more supportive of Pete’s desire to run the ball more this season.
A 50/50 split seems like a reasonable goal.
Especially if that ranks Seattle in the top-5 league-wide in terms of rushing percentage.