Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles on MNF, a thought started to occur in my mind midway through the fourth quarter when the Seattle Seahawk offense was trying to ice the game with runs that were being blown up. The thought in my mind is that these Seahawks are facing a growing identity crisis on offense. That thought was solidified for me during the dreadful outing against the Giants.
What are these Seattle Seahawks these days? Are they a finesse pass team that runs out of what the pass sets up? Are they back to a power run team that builds the pass out of the run?
The answer appears to be neither, and because of that, it feels like they are continuing to drift towards a team that is in the midst of an offensive identity crisis. That’s not a good thing heading into this final stretch of games where they are looking to win their division.
The other NFC West teams all appear to know what they are. The Rams and 49ers are running teams that use play action and are built to play stout defense. The Cardinals are a spread team that runs and passes out of that spread. In Seattle’s recent quest to find more balance on the offense, it honestly feels like they have found themselves caught in a no man’s land, and in this game against a really well coached NY Giant defense, it caught up to them.
It would be good for this offensive unit to huddle up this week for a team meeting to help them define who they are. They need to hang their hat on something, make defenses have to defend that, and then have solid counters in their back pocket. It has become now time for that to happen.
Off-season player acquisitions are not available and this team needs to adjust
I fully believe that general manager had a plan to acquire talent to help Russ cook. Let’s look through some of them.
During the earliest stages of the off-season, he signed veteran tight end Greg Olsen to help contribute to the pass game, and mentor the youngsters tight ends. He placed a second round tender on Jacob Hollister, who was the team’s third leading pass catcher, and he tripled down in the draft by selecting lengthy pass catching tight end Cody Parkinson (who some thought he had second round talent coming out of Stanford). It’s clear that Seattle wanted to find more receivers at tight end, especially with the way Will Dissly has faced serious injuries in back to back seasons.
In terms of wide receiver, they brought back David Moore, and signed speedster Phillip Dorsett to help take the top off of defenses (as well as add vital depth behind slot receiver Tyler Lockett). They remained interested in signing back Josh Gordon to add depth behind DK Metcalf and did. It’s clear that they were actively looking to surround Russell Wilson with as many pass catching options as possible.
Now, it’s fair to criticize these moves because Olsen, Dorsett and Jordan are all not available to the team. When something isn’t working, pointing fingers is the natural reaction, and it is fair to criticize Seattle for rolling the dice on players with injury and substance abuse histories, but honestly, I remain okay with Seattle’s decision to take a chance on these players. Where I have a problem is with what they are now doing without these men on the roster.
Is it smart to stretch defenses with a tight end that is more of an in-line blocker? Is it smart to not fully utilize backs that are both good runners and pass catchers? Hmm.. I don’t think so.
Seattle is not taking advantage of what they can do well
Even though Seattle is presently without Josh Gordon, and Greg Olsen, I think there is still enough ingredients on the offense to allow Russ to cook. They have backs that are all good pass catchers, they have decent pass catching tight ends, and they have DK and Tyler for goodness sake. They have talent. They just need to figure out how to allow Russ to cook better with what he has, and I think that is on Brian Schottenhiemer.
Against the Giants and the Rams, Schotty and Russ continued to chase after long developing pass plays rather than attack the defenses with the short pass game like they did early in the season against the Patriots. Weirdly, they started the game against the Giants with short passes that were working, but went away from them. Why?
It was clear throughout the game that the Giant defense was doing everything to take away the deep routes, that underneath patterns were being invited and so was the run, but inexplicably, Seattle chose to continue chasing deep patterns. That is not smart football. That is not using the best players on your offense in the best ways.
Take Will Dissly, for example. I like Dissly a lot for an offense built to be a down hill power running team that uses play action. I loved Dissly in the 2018-2019 Seattle offenses where he can chip on a defender coming in to play the run, and then sneak out in the open seams for a splashy caught. His comp for me is what Jason Witten was for years in Dallas and their power running offense. But if you are trying to be an up tempo offense, though, and you are often passing to set up the run, and you are dialing up deep routes to do that, Dissly doesn’t offer much straight line speed to stretch linebackers and safeties. At best, he is an outlet in the flat that can haul in a short gain. If Seattle would have went more run against the Giants, and used play action off of it, Dissly is a strong candidate to have had a big day. But Seattle did not do that.
If Pete Carroll is going to continue to demand balance throughout these final four games, I am fine with that. I even think that this can be the team’s offensive identity, and Russ can cook with that, but they got to do it smartly. They need to be varied. I think for Pete, being balanced nees to be about doing all things well enough that an offense can lean into whatever they need to depending on how a defense is playing them. Against the Giants, they should have ran more, and they should have continued more with short passes because that was what the defense was giving them.
As bad as things looked against the Giants, this season is not lost
This is where I am going to offer some optimism. As bad as things got against the Giants, with Russ making poor decisions, and Schotty being stubborn with some bad play calling, this season is not lost. Schotty can adjust. Russell can reset to play better ball.
Seattle does not have to continue down this path. Staring in front of them is a home game against the 0-12 Jets that they can use to get things right and reset themselves on offense. I believe Seattle will do this.
One undervalued thing about Russell Wilson is that he usually follows a poor outing with a much more sharper one. What I think needs to happen this week if for Russ, and Schotty, and the rest of the offense to sit down and have a solid accountability meeting. This needs to happen, and I am sure that it will. Too much is on the line for them now not to do that.
A decisive win against the Jets and a hard fought road win against the improving Washington Team the following week will put this team at 10-4 as they head into their home game against the Rams (who have had their own issues of ups and downs). That game against the Rams would suddenly feel like the game of the season to watch. That is everything you want in football.
As bad as things feel coming off this loss to the Giants, I fully believe that Seattle can rebound to make that a special late December game for the division. I am not giving up hope and I am looking for to it. Let the chips fall where they may.
2021 is the season they must truly let Russ cook
Finally, in terms of letting Russ cook, if Seattle wants to do this, they need to go all in on it in 2021. They need to be way more aggressive in player acquisition, player retention, and player development on both sides of the ball. They also need to be smarter with play calling on both sides.
This could mean some coaching changes if they don’t work out the kinks in the remaining 2020 games. This good also mean moving on from some high priced and or popular players if they do not fit the schemes needed to let this be a true Let Russ Cook team.
For example, if Seattle wants to be an aggressive up tempo offense that allows them to grab early leads, they need to build a defense that can really cause havoc when the opposing offense is trying to climb out of a hole. In doing that, Seattle probably can’t have its best pass rushing option be its starting strong safety. They are going to have to get twitchier and quicker on the defensive line. Run stuffing defensive tackles being asked to pass rush isn’t going to cut it. Relying on one quality Leo end is also not going to be enough. This defense will need an injection of speed on the front lines big time.
Letting Russ Cook needs to be a thing that this whole team is connected to, and in 2020 it hasn’t been that way nearly enough. But it can in 2021, and Seattle needs to aggressively figure it out. They need to be aggressive in bringing in more explosive weapons on the offense. They need to be aggressive in continuing to build back a top level pass rush. They need to be aggressive in being better at play calling.
2021 is going to be a huge off-season for general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll to figure these things out. Russell Wilson will not be content to go through a repeat season of the same sort of issues that have plagued them at times in 2020. These are his prime years to win a championship, and you don’t pay a player $35 million a year to game manage.
Again, I want to remind that despite their poor effort against the Giants, all is not lost for 2020. Seattle can still turn the corner and finish their season on a strong note. I think they can, but either way, they need to carry this through into 2021.
The Let Russ Cook Pandora box is wide open. Shutting it could have a devastating effect through out this organization. Russell Wilson is still your best player even if he hasn’t been lately playing his best. They need to see this thing through, and I think that they will.
It just might be a two year process for it to reach its peak. At least, that’s what I am thinking.