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Why Mike Macdonald should get off to a faster start than Pete Carroll

What’s a reasonable expectation for Seattle’s newest coach in his first season?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks shocked the NFL world - at least, the Washington Commanders anyway - by snatching Mike Macdonald in the final hour to become the ninth head coach in franchise history.

As part of the transition, Seattle goes from the oldest coach in the league to the youngest, from somebody who truly embodied the concept of “legend” to an upstart that is - if we’re being honest - largely unknown. He’s smart, seems good at designing defense, people like him, but leading a professional organization requires wearing so many hats at the same time in order to succeed.

However, don’t be surprised if coach Macdonald enjoys a quick start and early success faster than coach Carroll did. In fact, I think it’s rather likely.

That’s not where the true evaluation of Macdonald will lie, however, more on that later.

It Can Be Done

Since it’s been popular this past week to call Mike Macdonald “defensive Sean McVay,” look at the Los Angeles Rams from 2016-2017.

In ‘16, the Rams were 4-12.

2017 was McVay’s first season as head coach, in which they went 11-5

It may please you, dear reader, to note that one of those five losses came at the hands of the Seahawks.

McTake that, Sean.

Anyway, that’s one heck of a turnaround. Not the biggest ever, in fact, not even the biggest in Rams history. But still, 10-win swings don’t happen all the time.

His motions, play-action mastery, and to be frank, inheriting Aaron Donald in his third season took the league by storm.

Talent Discrepancy

Pete Carroll took over a similarly dismal team in 2010. The ‘09 Seahawks finished 5-11, resulting in the end of Jim Mora’s career.

Carroll respectably improved the team, but only to the tune of 7-9 in that first year.

That’s after drafting Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, and Kam Chancellor that spring. The team was so overmatched at that time that those rookies weren’t able to develop fast enough to make a bigger difference on the team.

The 2023 Seahawks were a far superior roster to the 2009 one. Patrick Kerney led the team with 5 sacks that year, and Matt Hasselbeck rode 11 fumbles and 17 interceptions to a 75.1 Passer Rating. Geno Smith had a 92.1 this year, for the record.

This year, Seattle underperformed their way to 9-8, if anything. They sent multiple players to the Pro Bowl games this year. There are elite weapons at receiver and running back, talent across the board on defense, and the team obviously suffered from a lack of cohesiveness throughout the season. The reasons for above .500 optimism are present and realistic.

What Comes After Is What Matters

Carroll had a losing record in his first two seasons. That feels unlikely to be Mike Macdonald’s path, barring they cut Geno, draft a rookie, and it bombs.

Like I said at the beginning, I think it is more likely than not that Macdonald will have a faster start than Carroll.

That won’t mean he’s a better coach. Not yet.

We got to witness Carroll do something rarely witnessed in professional sports - in 14 years, he never really had to rebuild the team. In fact, he outright refused. Macdonald’s real test comes not in 2024, or ‘25, but whether he is able to sustain success. We watched Sean McVay - a 37 year old - consider retiring after his first losing season, following four seasons of unparalleled success and a Super Bowl championship.

I am confident Macdonald will be quickly successful.

I am hopeful that he has what it takes to lead this team for the long haul.