As a Pete Carroll stan, I was pretty surprised by Seahawks Twitter’s reaction following their nail-biting 20-17 win this weekend. Common critiques of outdated coaching philosophy, predictable play-design, and ineffective scheming ran rampant on my Sunday night feed. Personally, I felt most of those comments were unwarranted. The Seahawks did win the game after all, and they did it the right way; giving Mike “IG” Davis (shoutout to the Mike Hive) the ball 21 times was all it took for him to go Super Saiyan on the Cardinals defense and rush for 101 yards and TWO touchdowns (Rashaad who?). I hope Brian Schottenheimer continues to rely upon the ground game to win as his players continue to master the offense.
But the most damning attack on Carroll’s coaching that I’ve heard is the fact that he’s limiting Russell Wilson’s ability to perform and “holding him back”. Ben Baldwin of The Athletic noted that it was “coaching malpractice” for Schottenheimer to not utilize play-action despite scheming for the best play-action QB in the league. Sam Hawkbadger, of the Why Not You Foundation, was more liberal with his comments, calling Schottenheimer “a mistake” and demanding his immediate firing. Then you have all the advanced stats people chiming in, throwing ridiculous acronyms like “EPA” around to feed the narrative.
But seriously, what does Russell Wilson have to do with protecting the environment? You get the idea.
First, let’s dispel the fact that Pete Carroll does not know what he‘s doing because he’s even better at following a script than Marco Rubio. The bulk of the offense’s output has followed a pretty clear trajectory over Russell Wilson’s six seasons in the league. His first three were a product of him being a responsible game manager, converting third downs and limiting turnovers. Subsequently, he became the face and primary source of production in his last three. Super Bowls notwithstanding, it can be easily argued that counting on Russell too much may be detrimental to the team’s performance (the Seahawks are 2-6 when he throws over 40 passes) and that a Seattle offense relying on the passing attack is unsustainable with Russell at QB.
We are also quick to forget that Russell’s only “elite” performance came in a late second-half stretch over three years ago when the Seahawks were lucky enough to face three teams that ranked 25th or worse in passing DVOA over their last eight games. With his 2016 season hampered by injury and his 2017 season skewered by a nonexistent running game, it is not that far-fetched to believe that Russell Wilson’s success may be a flash in the pan and that his 2015 performance is incapable of being replicated.
It is also vital to remember that Russell’s offensive weapons have constantly eroded since the Super Bowl, with a completely revamped OL and new receiving targets. Even before injuries to Doug Baldwin and Will Dissly, it feels negligent to force Russell Wilson to throw to guys who haven’t done anything statistically worthwhile since 2015. I mean, are we really counting on Brandon Marshall to produce as a number 1 wide receiver? It only makes sense to keep Russell below 30, even 25 passing attempts per game.
Arguably, the most important reason as to why the Seahawks should keep holding Russell back is also the most psychological. I don’t know about you, but I feel that Russell has gotten a bit too tall for his offensive line (if you catch my drift), ever since he beat the Packers with a game-winning interception. I’m not saying that Carroll is punishing Russell per se by taking away chances to perform (if he’d really wanted to punish him he’d let his All-Pro Left Tackle and Redzone option go in free agency), but maybe it’s a gentle but firm nudge from Pete that he’s still the boss.
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Carroll’s “sheltering” of Russell Wilson is mainly a ploy to revert the team – and himself – back to their 2012-2014 selves. Even if they have been pretty successful in that respect, the Seahawks don’t need Russell Wilson to pass for 300 yards every game to win. The Seahawks are at their best when Russell is an aspect, but not the focus, of the team.