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What the 2015 Seahawks can tell us about the 2023 Seahawks offense

Alternatively: Maybe stop freaking out about Geno Smith and Jaxon Smith-Njigba until it’s actually time to freak out.

Seattle Seahawks v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

There’s a lot of understandable griping about the way the Seattle Seahawks offense has performed through six games. We’ve seen an injured offensive line, some ups and downs at the quarterback position, and a shiny new toy in Jaxon Smith-Njigba not necessarily used to the fullest extent. These past two weeks have been oscillating between ludicrous suggestions like trading DK Metcalf or benching Geno Smith. You’d be forgiven for walking into the virtual room of Seahawks fans and thinking the team was 0-6 and not 4-2 with three wins by double digits.

So let’s have some perspective and do a little call-back to a Seahawks team that often gets lauded for what ended up being a highly efficient offense. I use them as my go-to example quite a bit because there’s a lot of memory-erasing when it comes to how that team actually performed.

I’m talking about the 2015 Seahawks, which sparked the emergence of Russell Wilson as a top-level passer. That team was largely remembered for the defense repeatedly blowing 4th quarter leads, but blown leads typically take two (sometimes three) to tango.

How many of you recall the offense’s inability to score for literally half the season? Probably very few. These are the Seahawks offense’s game-by-game point totals from Weeks 1-8 after you strip out all defensive and special teams touchdowns.

17 vs. Los Angeles Rams
17 vs. Green Bay Packers
19 vs. Chicago Bears
13 vs. Detroit Lions
17 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
23 vs. Carolina Panthers
20 vs. San Francisco 49ers
13 vs. Dallas Cowboys

3rd down ranking: 21st (36.6%, excluding kneeldowns)
Red Zone ranking: 32nd (5 touchdowns in 17 trips)
Points per drive ranking: 28th (1.57 pts)
EPA/play: 19th (through Week 8)

(The 2023 Seahawks rank 24th, 22nd, 11th, and 8th respectively)

Freaky, isn’t it? I mean, surely they weren’t committing crucial red zone turno—-

Or almost game-changing turnovers in gen—-

Ahh okay. But they weren’t turning 1st and goal at the 9 into a 53-yard field go——

They weren’t missing open receivers with questionable pocket work and then delivering bad pas——

I won’t bother with the offensive line, because you surely remember (and already wish to forget) Justin Britt at left guard and Drew Nowak at center. Russell Wilson was sacked 31 times at a rate of nearly 12%.

Here’s an article from Gregg Bell... does it ring a bell with the 2023 offense?

This is after an offseason in which Seattle made Wilson the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL, gave up a first-rounder and Max Unger for Jimmy Graham, and moved up in the draft to take Tyler Lockett in the 3rd round. The offense was supposed to take that next leap into being a truly elite unit. We got Jimmy Graham being asked to block more than he ever did in New Orleans, instead.

And yet, the offense (well, except for Darrell Bevell) caught very little flak for their role in the blown 4th quarter leads, but that’s what happens when you’re known for your elite defense and not your offense. The more prominent(ly paid) defense was supposed to close games out and they repeatedly failed. Frankly, this was also at a time when I think our fan-base (or at least Field Gulls) was very defensive of Russell Wilson from all of the lame “game manager” and “only good because of his defense/running game” takes that were rampant among national media. We’re also now more informed about “sacks are a quarterback stat” even while also acknowledging what a horror show that OL was up until right around the benching of Nowak.

By now you know the rest of the story: Seahawks get red-hot on offense, Wilson plays at an MVP level, Doug Baldwin has a torrid touchdown stretch that put him in the same company as Jerry Rice, Thomas Rawls fills in brilliantly for Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham gets more involved in the offense, Tyler Lockett is unlocked as a deep threat, Rawls and Graham both get season-ending injuries. The offensive line play changed for the better, with Wilson only taking 14 sacks over the remainder of the regular season. To date, the 2015 Seahawks offense is the only one under Pete Carroll to rank in the top-10 in 3rd down conversion rate, and the red zone efficiency was able to claw its way up to 16th.

Statistically speaking, the 2015 Seahawks offense was an order of magnitude worse than the 2023 unit through eight weeks. Russ had just 10 touchdown passes to 6 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles, and a 4-4 record. Tyler Lockett, the de facto WR3 behind Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, had multiple games without a catch and no offensive touchdowns until Week 7.

Obviously not everything is like-for-like comparable; Wilson had already achieved at the highest level with a history of high-level and clutch play, whereas Geno Smith has not. Russ also had more value as a dual-threat than Geno. Seattle was a run-first offense by design in 2015 and not the pass-first offense of 2023. The 2015 offensive line was supposed to be their best lineup, whereas the 2023 group never intended to have multiple Jake Curhan starts. You could argue the Seahawks’ overall offensive talent in 2023 is deeper than the 2015 group, even if there’s a gap between the two QBs. What’s the main point in all of this? We’ve been through this before!

We are not strangers to Pete Carroll offenses either starting slowly and peaking late or starting quickly and fading. It pretty much happened last season in Geno Smith’s debut as the full-time starter. The “Let Russ Cook” 2020 season looked tremendous until it didn’t, as did the 2019 offense before the entire running back group got hurt and so did key offensive linemen. The Super Bowl champion team of 2013 thrashed the New Orleans Saints to get to 11-1, then had only one game above 300 yards of total offense for the rest of the regular season.

So yes, the 2023 Seahawks are in a rut with bad red zone offense, weak 3rd down performance, untimely turnovers, a patch-work offensive line that cannot go a week without changing lineups, and generally undisciplined play. It’s also Week 8 and what we have now is not necessarily what we’ll continue to see ad infinitum.

I fully understand the disappointment over the inconsistent start relative to the hype and expectation. It’d be a lot more worrying if the offense was terrible on early downs, but they are objectively not. They are almost what we want this offense to be! There are just some fixable problems to correct, and I have trust in the players and coaching staff to make it happen.

Until then, if you think this offense is busted and people need to be traded, just think back to how the 2015 Seahawks started, and how they eventually broke through.