Longtime Seattle sports blog readers will have
wasted invested all sorts of time on all sorts of sites. There’s what Brian and Rob do for the Seahawks, there’s the excellent and newly independent Sounder at Heart if you like the other football, don’t forget DJLR GO KRAKEN!, plus some of us olds certainly harken for the bygone days of sonics rising dot com.
And then there are the Mariners hangouts.
In a story that will ring giant familiar bells to many of you, my online journey to Field Gulls began with a little corner of the internet called USS Mariner, halfway through the 2000s. From there I stumbled upon Lookout Landing, which naturally led me to FG through the SBN family. (Joined the day after Beastquake. Felt like good stuff was about to go down.) Anyway, as far back as one can remember, the LL staff would wrap up spring training by writing two season previews, titled “If it all goes right” and “If it all goes wrong.”
Jeff and Matthew are long gone from the Seattle blog scene, so they won’t mind a little intellectual property theft, right?
If it all goes wrong, yikes
First worst, second best. That’s how the saying goes, yeah? Come back Tuesday for the article you’ll actually want to read. None of what lies below this line needs to come true. Even though it’s all too easy to imagine.
The incessant injuries that beset Seahawks rookies in training camp should’ve come with their own warning system, something like that blaring horn ubiquitous across Tornado Alley. Or Dorothy’s Auntie Em. Either one.
That’s when we should’ve known it wasn’t — YET — Seattle’s year. When Devon Witherspoon tried for four long weeks to crack the active roster, only to be pushed back every time. When Jaxon Smith-Njigba had a wrist setback on the opener’s Blue Friday. When Jamal Adams rushed his return in Week 2 and missed another month as a result. When Charles Cross landed awkwardly in Week 3 and got his knee scoped. They all came back, yes, and they all contributed in December, but while they rehabbed and got back up to speed, there were games to be won, which weren’t.
Sure, Julian Love in the nickel and Coby Bryant deep managed to hold their own some of the time, and Stone Forsythe was better than expected at LT, but there were all the growing pains and broken coverages you’d expect from guys learning a new team or new position. Big picture, a legit contending team would’ve banked wins early before their late-season gauntlet, and the Seahawks didn’t.
The Lions ran up the score in Week 2, then the ever-pesky Panthers rode fumble luck to prevail in Seattle Week 3. Only a last-second field goal to edge the Giants in New York kept the Seahawks from cratering before the bye — which of course came too early, as if we needed more proof our universe had malodorous designs for the 2023 squad all along.
By the bye, two offensive issues had made themselves clear: A) Geno had settled in as something between his best and worst self — good enough to make great plays but bad enough on third down to kill drives, and...
B) Tyler Lockett, for the first time in his Ring of Honor career, looked old. We all know he protects his body with a passion, and we all respect him for it, because players are people too, but this season even self-preservation came slower to him and he took more hits than necessary. When he went to the blue tent late in the Panthers loss, everyone held their breath. It wasn’t anything serious, he missed less than a quarter of play, except as a sign of the times, it was everything. At Christmas, after a brutal season, Lockett announced his intention to retire, which he followed up with an 11-160-2 home performance against the Steelers. A going-away present, if you will.
As the season wore on, the center position never got solidified. Evan Brown and Olu Oluwatimi job-shared not because it was so hard to choose between two excelling players, but because neither stepped up enough to claim the job outright. Protections were inconsistent, stunts overwhelmed the underprepared OL again and again, and the offense eventually turtled into a run-heavy shell of what it could’ve been.
Meanwhile, the Seattle pass rush turned out uneven. On the outside, Uchenna Nwosu was quieted by double teams all year, Darrell Taylor showed up in spurts like usual, and Boye Mafe was fine, nothing more. On the interior, Dre’Mont Jones came as advertised and right away became the favorite Seahawk for rivals to hate after single-handedly willing a win into existence against the Rams’ excuse for an offensive line. Derick Hall never really got going; his tantalizing potential would have to wait a season to manifest.
One seriously bright spot: Tre Brown at LCB. Looked so good actually that QBs started targeting Riq Woolen again. Both men even made game-sealing interceptions in successive weeks (20-18 over the Commanders and 14-9 over the Rams). Brown led the team with six picks, one more than Woolen. Always compete.
In fact, despite speed bump after speed bump, everything short of the 1 seed still seemed possible in Seattle after Week 11, what with a 5-5 record, including 3-0 in the division, riding a two-game win streak, and players returning/about to return to full health. Turns out, that was the team’s 2023 highwater mark; they would never see .500 again.
Felt an awful lot like a season in the balance with the 49ers coming to town. With Brock Purdy stuck in concussion protocol, Sam Darnold would face a resurgent secondary in Seattle. The rivals shared haymakers in a for-the-ages first half that finished knotted at 14, equally peppered with bangers on each side of the ball. A Bobby Wagner strip-sack, a Kenneth Walker 69-yard scamper-n-score. A Jamal Adams end zone pick. Brandon Aiyuk’s 80-yard weave in which he broke no less than six tackles. That Deebo Samuel TD pass. My God.
So when the Seahawks tied the game at 24 with three minutes left to play, and a light snow began to fall, unseasonably, it became a statement moment. Just a matter of who was going to make it.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense made it. Converting not one, but two fourth and shorts on their side of the field, they reached the Seattle 30 with a minute to spare. An incompletion, then a spectacular Jordyn Brooks open-field tackle on Samuel set up third and eight. Shanny logically took his final timeout. Then, the 2023 version of this infamous playoff moment came true, horrifying all in attendance:
Everyone knew it was over when this nonsense happened. pic.twitter.com/am04KFQW8l— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) September 2, 2023
Darnold proceeded to fake the spike on first down. George Kittle snuck down the seam, impossibly wide open. 31-24 Niners. Geno’s Hail Mary was picked, and that was that, in more ways than one.
There are no guarantees in the NFL, but the Seahawks were never going to go into Dallas and upset the 10-1 Cowboys, not with that Dan Quinn defense firing on all cylinders and Dak Prescott putting up MVP-level numbers. And — spoiler! — they didn’t. The game was never as close as the 29-17 final score suggests.
Sitting at 5-7, outclassed by the NFC’s elite, the Seahawks shut JSN down after an extra-nasty concussion. And while that gave Dareke Young and Jake Bobo a chance to grow into long-term contributors (WR3 and WR4 are solved for the short term), they were miscast in such a large role so soon. The offense went hot-and-cold again, the defense was overrun by the Niners’ and Eagles’ ground attacks, and any leftover playoff aspirations unofficially died with the ninth loss, to Philly.
Saddest of all (but also predictably of all), Wagner finally showed his age. The Seahawks’ revamped defensive scheme called for him to move forward, attack the line of scrimmage, do Bobby Wagner things to offensive linemen and ball carriers, and he did, sometimes. Without the explosiveness of his 23-year-old self, he made for a nice enough chess piece on the board — a knight? a bishop? — but not nearly the devastating, board-wrecking queen he was in his first Seattle go-round.
It says something that the Seahawks endured a panoply of pernicious bounces on top of a wave of wacky injuries, yet only bottomed out at eight wins. Other franchises would kill (not literally, we hope) for that floor. ‘Tis the lot of this franchise though, to spend its decades alternating between “We’re so good!” and “We’re almost good!” Could be a lot worse, I spose.
@SEA 21, LAR 13
@DET 42, SEA 31
CAR 28, @SEA 27
SEA 22, @NYG 19
@CIN 34, SEA 17
@SEA 38, ARI 10
CLE 28, @ SEA 20
@BAL 23, SEA 20
@SEA 20, WAS 18
SEA 14, @LAR 9
SF 31, @SEA 24
@DAL 29, SEA 17
@SF 28, SEA 16
PHI 37, @SEA 30
SEA 35, @TEN 24
@SEA 34, PIT 14
SEA 31, @ARI 17
NFC West Final Standings
49ers 11-5-1, 5-0-1 division
Seahawks 8-9, 4-2 division
Rams 8-9, 2-4 division
Cardinals 2-14-1, 0-5-1 division
It’s January 2024 and the Seahawks are watching the playoffs from their couches and chaise lounges, if they’re watching at all. With a 24-27 record since 2020 ended and only one playoff win since the LOB dissolved (against the Josh McCown Eagles, at that), Pete Carroll will spend the offseason on a seat of indeterminate hotness.
Although there will be precious few murmurs that his run in Seattle should end immediately, the reality is that a NFL head coach will rarely survive very long leaning on one solitary playoff victory in seven years. All pressure now rests on the ‘24 Seahawks to produce that suddenly elusive postseason run. They can do it. Well, they kinda have to.