The Seattle Seahawks have proven a lot of things the past two seasons as they gleefully bucked NFL orthodoxy. Pete Carroll and his merry band of provocateurs have proven that a players’ coach can whip a loose team into a postseason frenzy. They’ve proven that a ferocious defense, wacky special teams, and a game-managing quarterback can win a Super Bowl. They’ve also proven that one game can define a season, and one play just might define a franchise. Since their ill-fated decision – to throw a pass over the middle on second and goal from the one – Seattle is in flux and the Seahawks formula is broken.
Carroll repeatedly defended “the call” in the off-season. But Seattle fans, gamblers, and armchair quarterbacks worldwide know better.
“It’s the worst result of a call ever,” Carroll said. “The call would have been a great one if we’d caught it. It would have been just fine and nobody would have thought twice about it. We knew we were going to throw the ball one time in the sequence somewhere, and so we did, and it just didn’t turn out right.”
Pete is only half right. It wasn’t just “the worst result of a call ever.” It was the worst call ever. Immediately after the game offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell proceeded to throw the intended receiver, Ricardo Lockette, under the bus.
“He could’ve done a better job at staying strong through the ball,” Bevell said.
Thus began the tug on a thread that just might unweave the Seahawks’ magic carpet. Carroll and Bevell can defend their decision for the rest of their lives, because football cognoscenti will question it for eternity. Now, it’s not just “the call.” Seattle faces myriad crises of payroll, leadership, and identity.
The Seahawks’ formula was perfect, but delicate. They built the Legion of Boom with a far-sighted vision of long and physical defensive backs. Their offense was engineered by a quarterback playing out a rookie contract, and driven by the power of Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson was a third round pick in the 2012 draft. He signed for four years and $2,996,702. After extended negotiations before this season Wilson signed an extension for four years and $87,600,000. Wilson commented:
“For me I just want to be paid based on what I’m worth, what I’ve produced, whatever that means.”
Well Russell, it means that several of your teammates are not paid what they’re worth. Yes, that’s part of life in the NFL; but the reality is that Seattle’s fragile formula is broken. Defensive end Michael Bennett, who is not happy with his contract, made pointed comments about quarterbacks’ salaries.
“Quarterback is the only position in the NFL where you could be mediocre and get paid. At every other position, you can’t be mediocre,” Bennett said.
Bennett threatened to hold out over his contract demands, but Kam Chancellor did more than threaten. He’s already held out for one game over a contract dispute; and there is no indication that he or the Seahawks are willing to compromise. Chancellor is the de factor leader of the Seahawks. It is his physicality and role as captain of the defense that make him invaluable. Mike Florio, of Pro Football Talk, describes his leadership.
“Chancellor helps get guys like Marshawn Lynch in the right frame of mind. Chancellor…otherwise does things that would fall onto the shoulders of head coach Pete Carroll.”
Last week Marshawn Lynch wore Chancellor’s jersey at a Seahawks’ practice.
— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) September 10, 2015
Lynch made news a few days ago when his mother voiced her dissatisfaction with the Seahawks’ offensive play calling under Bevell. Marshawn was stuffed on fourth and one on late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Rams. Carroll made another disastrous decision as the Seahawks attempted an onside kick to start overtime. Sunshine Lynch went on Facebook and succinctly summarized the simmering frustration in a Jack Kerouac rant.
Echoes of the Super Bowl XLIX postgame. NFL.com’s Michael Silver hinted at dissension in the aftermath of “the call.”
I’ll spare you the numerous “What the (expletive) was he thinking?” mutterings I overheard from people in Seahawks uniforms and refrain from lending any legitimacy to the conspiracy theory one anonymous player was willing to broach: That Carroll somehow had a vested interest in making Wilson, rather than Lynch, the hero, and thus insisted on putting the ball in the quarterback’s hands with an entire season on the line. “That’s what it looked like,” the unnamed player said, but I’d be willing to bet that he merely muttered it out of frustration, and that it was a fleeting thought.
Maybe not. NFL locker rooms are volatile places and petri dishes for all kinds of deleterious growth. Pete Carroll’s loosey-goosey attitude works just fine when his team is winning. He can glue and duct tape personalities together with an “us against them” mantra. But when it’s “us against us” Pete’s manipulations, antics, and poor decisions are exposed. It is true that Seattle is simply 0-1. One loss does not necessarily portend disaster for the reigning NFC champions. However, the writing is on the wall. The Seahawks’ formula has been erased; and there is simply too much blame, and not enough money, to go around.