State of the Franchise

Everything eventually comes to expiration. I just never imagined the relationships of former and current players being in such shambles with Pete Carroll; a well-documented players coach.

When you mix Carroll’s core philosophy with the nature of a bottom line business, you can see how the player/coach chemistry would fade after the player becomes established. Or, how it could be viewed as hypocritical when business/politics convolute decision making within the realm of your philosophy. Pete once illustrated this as, “getting off the train tracks.” The train tracks represent the guidelines of your vision. Not following your guidelines is analogous to a train flying off its tracks. The ride will no doubt be bumpy, hazardous, and potentially life-threatening.  Without these guidelines established, you will never be able to determine if something is off or wrong.

This concept was apart of a grand revelation Carroll had after being uprooted from his preceding NFL stint; identifying key factors in developing what would eventually become the “Win Forever” philosophy; not focusing on wins and losses, but competition in addition to maximizing your full potential not just as a football player, but a human. He made this his central theme at USC. With that, a culture could be established and the wins would be a byproduct of the vision.

This strategy worked very well for Carroll when he brought it to the NCAA, where he never had to worry about things like selling the program to a player, a salary cap, or having enough control over the program. When players were departing from USC, it was usually positive news as they were going to become professionals in life, and for a few, the NFL; no sweat off his brow because the next crop of recruits would be just as stellar as the last, if not superior. The show went on no matter what.

Now though, it’s as if he’s enduring criticism from players for the first time since Lendale White. Though it is mentioned time and time again how carefully he’s handled one-on-one situations with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, the players’ actions suggest nothing has truly been mended. I honestly can’t figure out if Pete’s mentality is top shelf, or he’s just stubborn. Sherman was savvy when he called out Caroll. He went after the thing nearest & dearest to the coach’s heart; his core principles. Pete never made things personal with Sherman in public though. Throughout the Earl saga, Carroll never once fed the hype, downplaying all of it. From the “come get me” fiasco to middle-fingers-up. It is commendable but, at this stage in his life, I’m starting to doubt he has the capability of getting back to the top of the game.

Pete’s contract expires after 2019 and I’m willing to bet by his choice or not, he will be out of coaching at that point. I think he’s had this time-frame in mind since the day he signed the extension, and the full-court press in 2017 that he swears wasn’t an approach different from other seasons, in hindsight, feels like another lie. Clearly, he felt he had a real chance to contend before purging the roster, which had been in motion since shopping Richard Sherman in 2016. The allocation of draft capital has done a complete 180 since the first half of his tenure, and the team seems to have lost the touch in luring free agents. The only thing sadder than losing to the Lions in the T.J. Lang sweepstakes was signing Luke Joeckel after the fact. Why would the team rent Sheldon Richardson with the knowledge that Malik McDowell was a lost cause if they weren’t all in for 2017? Comp picks? Nope!

It was all going to hit or utterly fail. This had an accumulative effect on current players who battled and bled with the likes of Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett, who’ve all come out publicly to say that the team had lost its way.

It’s natural for players to side with their teammates when it comes to business. That’s where I believe Carroll has perhaps lost a significant portion of the locker room. There’s a different tone this year with Pete and, for the first time, it feels like maybe he’s lost a step. Maybe he isn’t as in tune with the players as he believes to be.

As we draw closer to an end, the same train tracks that got Seattle to the top are now leading it to a different destination, tainting the legacy and preventing the team from adapting to the modern NFL, as the neckbeards would have it. Pete Carroll had time a decade ago. Now at his age, I’m just not sure he has the time or willingness to reinvent himself once more from a philosophical standpoint.

Then there’s the matter of the recent paradigm shifts at the top of this organization. Last week we learned Peter McLoughlin would no longer be the acting President and CEO. This week, Paul Allen revealed his cancer has returned, and naturally, that his focus will be on battling it. With new heads in power, they’ll no doubt want to implement their own ideas. Is Pete apart of their plan? If Seattle misses the playoffs two years straight, I’d think probably not. If they do, maybe it buys Pete a year, but again, beyond 2019 I’m of the belief that Pete will be retired. What’s more, I don’t see another team handing him the keys like the Seahawks were willing to. That’s perhaps the most important factor: money and prestige. Having total control is what lured Pete to the USC job, and when the Seahawks hired him, it was the deciding factor in leaving behind the Trojan dynasty he built.

If John Schneider and Russell Wilson are the key pieces to the next decade of Seahawks football, what will the core philosophy be? Will Schneider be able to freely employ and build around his most important asset? We’d certainly be in for another big coaching staff turnover. What would that look like? Whatever the long game may be, it’s starting to feel like the wheels are in motion. We know a big factor in Seattle’s run was being able to build around Russell’s rookie contract. Obviously, it had a factor in the Eagles assembling a Super Bowl winner around Wentz’ deal, despite his injury. I think it’s showing to become a trend with the likes of Mahomes and Goff to their respective teams.

There seem to be only two popular ways to construct a contender in today’s game: build around a rookie QB contract or,,, be the Patriots.

In recent years, we’ve seen temporary threats in Minnesota, Oakland, and Dallas before regression hits. Jacksonville may be the outlier but even they’re getting elevated play from Bortles. If Russell becomes a top paid QB in 2019, can John build a contender around him? Maybe, maybe not. A lot of it will depend on the development of recent draft classes. We’ve somehow continued to blunder on top draft capital but over the last two seasons, there have been some encouraging players coming out of the mid-to-late rounds. It’s likely that the Seahawks will have about a dozen guys from the classes of 2017/2018 starting on this team next year, and the rest will fall on luring pass rush in free agency, as well as the draft. To me, that’s the key to whether Frank Clark is here or not.

What happens to K.J. Wright remains to be seen, but, given the current circumstance, I’d lean towards him being out at the end of this season. It seems they’ve hedged themselves there with Shaquem and Calitro, but the defensive line is concerning, especially considering they have no defensive ends under contract beyond this season outside of rookie, Rasheem Green! So not only is there a depth concern, but there’s an experience-level concern. We need to see a more consistent 3-technique pass rush from Jarran Reed and Naz Jones if the team wants to justify perhaps the biggest mystery of last offseason: the “rental” of Sheldon Richardson. The Tom Johnson situation just added insult to injury.

As long and loud as we clamored for offensive line improvement, you can see the front office was smart by not committing long-term guarantees to any of the guys just to spend the money. They can even conceptualize the idea of going cheap there with seemingly every other position group being paid at the time. However, the way the defensive line has been handled is mind-boggling. Whatever the plan is, we will hopefully start to see it come to fruition this week.

The Seahawks are through the first quarter of their 2018 campaign sitting at a relatively predictable 2-2 record. The Rams are coming to town and appear to be the best team in the NFC. Seattle hasn’t been this big of an underdog at home in many years. Earl Thomas is on Injured Reserve. Will Dissly is on Injured Reserve. K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin have been battling knee injuries since the start of the season. Russell Wilson is still settling in. The team is already playing musical chairs with running backs. Everyone in the world expects Seattle to get molly-whopped; lose this game, and confirm the affirmations of a fading organization.

Win though, and breathe new life into the next generation of Seattle Seahawks football. FTR!

Some things are more important than football though, and so I speak for all when I say, get well soon, Mr. Allen.

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