Without Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have been reborn
Before the preseason, the Seahawks seemed like a logical candidate to be among the worst teams in the NFL. In March, they accepted trade preference for Russell Wilson and he dealt it to the Denver Broncos. The same day they released another longtime star, linebacker Bobby Wagner. After clinging to a championship era for far too long, they severed any remaining ties to their past in a stunning swoop. When coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider refused to use the term “rebuilding,” it looked like they were in denial.
Now, eight weeks after that strange and lackluster NFL season, the Seahawks are giving reasons to appreciate the sport. They don’t have Wilson, but they have a 5-3 record and first place in the NFC West. They have Geno Smith, Wilson’s backup for three seasons, showcasing some of the toughest and most efficient quarterback play in the league. They have a charming ensemble of precocious youngsters and overlooked veterans that combine to transform a franchise that had become stale.
As the first half of this season has shown, the Seahawks were not outdated by their methods. They just needed to have the courage to let go. Once they did, it allowed the organization, which has been one of the most stable in the NFL since the late owner Paul Allen stole Mike Holmgren from Green Bay in 1999, to regenerate. Its new atmosphere is familiar. The staff is full of new faces, but the philosophies are mostly the same. At an accelerated pace, they are showing signs of becoming an updated version of what they have always been during the dozen years that Carroll and Schneider have been at the helm.
Carroll, 71 and 31, fielded a question after his team’s 27-13 win over the New York Giants on Sunday: Is coaching this team the most fun you’ve ever had? It was a big question for a man who could make taking out the trash a joyous experience.
“I’ve had fun over the years,” he said. “This is really special. This is a very special opportunity right now. It’s been because of all the hype and the circumstances and all that, and the challenge and the doubts and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I like this challenge . I like all of this. I’ve liked it from the beginning.”
After rambling for a while, he allowed himself a moment to applaud his detractors.
“You know, all the doubters,” Carroll began. “Like: ‘We run the ball too much. You don’t understand football. And he can’t keep up with the new game.” And all that kind of stuff, that’s a load of shit, I tell you. Look, we’re fine. we are fine We are improving day by day.”
The Seahawks have won three games in a row. After ranking near the bottom of the league in defense through the first five games, they have put in a solid defensive performance during this winning streak. On offense, Smith has completed 72.7 percent of his passes, thrown 13 touchdown passes and just three interceptions and posted a 107.2 caliber passer rating. Rookie running back Kenneth Walker III is a star. The receiver tandem of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett continues to be one of the best in the NFL. The debutant faces Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas has started immediately and they look like axes. Beyond that, the Seahawks have a wide variety of offensive players who embrace their roles, including three quality tight ends who add a new dimension for offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
“I think the biggest thing is that it’s amazing what we can accomplish when nobody cares who gets the credit,” Lockett said.
Lockett wasn’t shooting Wilson. He was repeating a cliché he learned from his high school basketball coach. While it’s inevitable that every facet of this season in Seattle will be measured against the Seahawks’ decision to trade Wilson, they’re not obsessed with him. They are consumed with making their own mark. The tension defined the end of the Wilson era as the quarterback pressed not just to keep winning, but to follow his different vision of winning. Now the Seahawks are back to playing that loose, competitive style that Carroll inspires.
Regardless of the circumstances, it can be much harder to maintain success than to start over. Maintenance is a chore. But the Seahawks are in a building phase now. And it is not the reconstruction that they resisted. They have a chance to be the rare team that can string together eras without suffering long-term. And that early success may not slow their potential to grow through the draft because they’re still set to receive first- and second-round picks in the 2023 draft from Denver. Considering the work the front office did to build a stellar rookie class that includes Walker, tackles and corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, the additional assets add even more hope.
Of course, the Seahawks are on a two-game losing streak to be another NFL team. They know it. But when it comes to celebrating, they don’t sink. They use it to build their confidence so they can keep growing.
When asked about the Seahawks’ current belief level, safety Quandre Diggs chimed in: “It’s crazy for you to say ‘the belief we have now.’ We’ve always believed.”
Lockett said, “When you look at this team that we have, we’ve got a lot of guys that are ready to pitch in. When you look at the rookie class, they probably haven’t said 500 words since they’ve been here. They just put their heads down and work.”
Carroll has a way of making success contagious. More than any other coach in the NFL, he specializes in accentuating the individual and using positive coaching to nurture players in extraordinary ways. When their teams cross, they often go to another level. The Seahawks may not be as good as they’ve shown the past three weeks, but they likely won’t go away.
This strange season has given them an opening to convention. They seem determined to capitalize.
“I know it’s been kind of an alert, ‘What’s going on here?’ What are these guys doing? How is this happening? ” Carroll said. “They’re together and they’re playing together, and they know they can improve, and they know there are areas of their football that they can improve. Nobody’s satisfied, and it’s a great feeling.”
It’s a new feeling. It is also familiar.
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