For two weeks, Pete Carroll has been asked if Sidney Jones, for whom the Seattle Seahawks traded, is ever going to see the field. It’s the right question, it’s a necessary question.
Starting right cornerback Tre Flowers has not held up, getting gashed at least once per drive.
But the media is asking the wrong guy.
Though Pete Carroll is ultimately responsible for personnel decisions on the field, and though he’s the only coach available to media immediately postgame, this is not really a Pete Carroll question.
The problem here is Ken Norton Jr.
Flowers has been bad, to be sure, but I believe he is currently far worse (gulp) than he has the right to be, given what he’s occasionally done on the field.
Both cornerbacks, Flowers and DJ Reed, indicated after the game that the coaching of late has.... confused them.
It’s not a great look for two of the three worst players on defense from Sunday’s game (including Ugo Amadi) to redirect to coaches.
However, coupled with the Sidney Jones confusion, I think the cornerbacks are giving a look behind the curtain at what fans are speculating: Ken Norton has hamstrung this defense.
It’s the only thing that makes sense at this particular position, given (1) two trades at cornerback, and (2) the vague Pete-isms that Carroll has shared for three weeks, which ordinarily would mean a vote of no confidence in Flowers, and a sign that Jones will see the field.
That, coupled with the fact that we got Robert Nkemdiche out there for 50+ snaps, and not a single second of game play for Sidney Jones, means that Norton’s scheme is over and unnecessarily confusing for players to learn and implement on the field. Especially in the backfield.
This is not Carroll refusing to play the ready athlete. This is a defensive system that is untenable.
What’s absolutely unjustifiably ridiculous about all this is we’ve been here before.
The loss last season to the Buffalo Bills was what preceded the “meeting” that saved the season or whatever. Hear that again from former Field Gulls legend Matty Brown: “what followed was a simplified scheme. Execution improved.”
Norton’s an incompetent fool if he spent the offseason thinking that with more time he could get back to whatever nonsense he thinks this defense is supposed to look like, as opposed to the simplified freedom that actually worked in the second half of 2020.
We know that confidence fuels performance. It applies in any skill or profession; take five seconds to think about your own job.
On the field, it’s perhaps even amplified because decisions are split-second, and nonconfidence going up against confidence loses at an incredible rate.
Here’s why I bring that up, one last point in favor of Flowers’ problem not really being his own problem but Norton’s.
Flowers plays absolutely terrified.
To this, I actually blame any and all coaches involved, because they’ve allowed it. But Flowers plays so far off the ball it’s begun to get difficult to tell who he’s even covering sometimes. This is in part because he’s bad but in part because the coaching directives are even worse.
Here’s a few from the loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The receiver is circled and Flowers has been indicated.
Here’s DJ Reed on coverage, who has at times been very good but right now is playing bad, just to remember this is a problem across the board.
And my personal favorite, this from the third quarter, on a devastating 2nd and 14 conversion.
Seattle sent six at Kirk Cousins on this play. Both Bobby Wagner and Poona Ford actually hit the QB.
So WHY is Flowers barely on screen?!? You know (presumably) you’re in isolation at this point, and that the ball is going to need to come out quickly.
On average, a couple of times per drive some receiver gets open by 5 yards, and at the moment of release - almost to completion, really - Flowers has not begun attacking the ball. That last part is on him, but is also the known commodity said to be present in Sidney Jones, which is why I think something else has prevented Jones from getting to the field faster.
The Seahawks had one pass deflected in the entire game, and it was Carlos Dunlap at the line of scrimmage. There won’t be another pass defended because there haven’t been any corners who can touch the receiver, let alone the ball, on well over half the opposing receptions.
When Flowers indicated a scheme problem, I think he meant it, and I think it is the best explanation for what we’re seeing right now.
In the NFC West that will cost them the playoffs.
They need to do that meeting thing again. Right now. Preferably at the end of it they fire Ken Norton, but these defensive players are universally underachieving, and it’s coach’s fault.