Icarus was an ancient dude who was gifted with a rare ability to fly with constructed wings made of feathers and wax. He and his dad busted out of an ancient Cretan prison each wearing a pair of these magical wings, but his dad warned him not to fly too close to the sun, for if he did, these wings would melt and burn. But poor Icarus got too caught up in the moment while’st in flight, felt himself rather invincible, and forgot the advice of his risk adverse father. He did, in fact, fly too close to the sun, the wings predictably melted, he fell, and he died. All he had to do was to heed the wisdom of dear old dad.
If I am to pick one mythological tale to use as a metaphor for the 2020 Seattle Seahawks, I don’t know how I could possibly not chose this one. The Seattle Seahawks were committed to letting Russell cook, it became intoxicating, and it all caught up to them, and it become their demise.
It’s taken me about a week to put this piece together. I’ve needed time to process what happened during the season, and think about all the reasons why this team’s post season run ended as abruptly as it did. To write a proper post mortem of these 2020 Seahawks, dust needed to settle a bit, and I think it has.
After a stellar first month of the season in which the Seattle offense put up historic passing numbers, NFL defensive coordinators caught up to it just before mid season, and it was rough watching what eventually unfolded as a result. Seattle inexplicably did not adjust well enough to what became a standard two deep safety look that was routinely deployed against them as a basic means to take away the deep pass. Weirdly, Seattle chose to continue dialing up deep pass patterns against it with outlet patterns that either Russell Wilson did not see, or did not feel comfortable to decisively go to. In result of that, our star quarterback regressed.
Ultimately, they ran into a buzz saw against the best defense in the league in the playoffs, and it was an embarrassing early exit on their home field. An impressive 12-4 regular season record with historic offensive numbers will not remove the sour taste out of the mouths of many Seahawk fans, coaches, and players after that loss.
As a result of all this, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer lost his job at the end, even though he was the play-caller for an offense had put up record setting franchise numbers. That’s an astonishing fun fact to digest.
So, there it is. That was the 2020 Seattle Seahawks for you, and thus, we are going to see changes to this team during in 2021. How vast the amount of changes, we can only speculate at this point, but there are only two things that I am certain about that won’t change.
Number one is that this team will not fire Pete Carroll. He just signed an extension that keeps him in Seattle through 2025, his team just went 12-4, and the rather remarkable defensive turnaround this his team achieved mid season (to possibly save their season) shows that Carroll is still a master at coaching up that side of the ball. One could argue that with no Paul Allen, Carroll now has more control over the franchise than ever. The safe bet moving forward is that this is his ship, and he will sail it his way probably until he decides to retire. The idea of firing him is pretty futile. Won’t happen.
The other thing is that this team will not do is trade Russell Wilson, at least not this year, and probably not at any point at all, no matter how much some will feel convinced that a trade is inevitable. Beating that drum might be even more futile than the fire the coach drum.
Russell Wilson had a rough stretch of games to close the season, no doubt about it, and it wasn’t all on the coaching, either. During this difficult stretch, there appears to be plenty of tape showing that Brian Schottenheimer schemed outlet receivers for him to check towards that he either didn’t see, or he was just too hesitant to go towards while being hyper protective with the ball. This suggests that Schottenheimer was not solely at fault for his struggles. This also suggests that Russell regressed as a passer in 2020.
Many of the Russell Wilson detractors will gloat some over this, and they will feel vindicated by their skepticism over him through the years. They will espouse the notions that he’s too short and age has diminished his wheels. Many will most definitely yearn for him to be traded, but that will be mostly silly talk, and there are numerous reasons why.
I will not go in depth in this piece to explain all these reasons why trading Russell is highly unlikely. As trade rumors are sure to start brewing, I will write more about it then. I will just say that, for starters, his 2021 salary makes it very cost prohibitive to move him this off-season. The second thing is that, for a mega-trade to happen, it takes two to tango, and with Russell Wilson’s no-trade clause in his contract, it actually takes three to tango.
For John Schneider to move his favorite player, he will have to find a team willing to give him what he feels is fair compensation for a quarterback who is inching into his mid thirties now with each season. If Russ were to try to force a trade, any general manager trying to low ball Seattle for him, you can bet your bottom dollar Schneider would tell them exactly what dark hole they can put their offer up inside. Furthermore, if he does find a team desperate enough to give him what he wants for an older expensive quarterback, if Russell doesn’t like the destination, he can veto it through his no-trade clause.
Finally, if Russ wants out, the truth of the matter is that he just doesn’t hold any power to force his way out. Pete Carroll and John Schneider can just tell him and his agent “your signed through 2023 and we can revisit after then.” What would Russ do? Do you think he would honestly sit out seasons when he knows his window of being in his prime is closely? Russ and his hardball agent don’t have as much power as you think.
Therefore, I think the truth of everything is that it’s going to be best for Russell, and it is going to be best for Pete to find a solid middle ground with each other. If Pete wants to establish the run more, Russ should be cool with that with a practical eye towards regaining his highly efficient form again. It would also be logical for Pete to listen to Russ and concede that more varied tempo on offense, from time to time, helps his quarterback to play more confident, and therefor better. No matter who the next offensive coordinator is, there is room for both of these figure heads to concede some towards the other. This would be best for all sides.
There, I said all that I wanted to say about it for now. Moving forward, I think it is more worth it to focus on what the realistic changes might be in 2021, and to create a wish list off of that. This is what I will focus on in the later portion of this piece.
Before that, I want to quickly revisit the season by breaking it down into the three categories that have become the standard with this blog; the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. So, here we go.
DK Metcalf took an enormous step forward in his sophomore season in the league, and it feels like he is still just scratching the surface of what he can be as a receiver. It has been such a significant step forward that it feels like he is now perhaps the second best player on offense, and that is saying something when you consider that this offense has Duane Brown at left tackle, and they have Tyler Lockett at the other receiver position. I see greatness for years to come with this guy, and I’m excited about that. The smart move to to buy stock in him as a player now.
The defensive turnaround that this team made mid season was very promising. It’s obvious that the addition of Carlos Dunlap was a huge factor, but I think that a lot of credit has got to go towards Ken Norton Junior and Pete Carroll adjusting the scheme to a more aggressive “bear front” to take advantage of other talents on the roster, such as Poona Ford up front, and Jamal Adams and DJ Reed on the back end. Maybe the biggest factor in this turnaround was the shift of KJ Wright to the strong side (SAM) linebacker and his role in this scheme. This was a defensive front unlike anything Carroll has had in Seattle before, and I think that they are onto something with it. I’m excited to see how far they take it in 2021.
This might have been the best year John Schneider has had as a general manager, and it was awesome news that the team extended his contract to 2027. This year he made the right call during free agency to re-up defensive tackle Jarran Reed, and to put a firm limit on how much to spend on Jadeveon Clowney (Clowney proved injury prone again with the Titans while Reed regained his pass rush form from 2018). Schneider also hit the ball out of the park with the 2020 draft class, as Jordyn Brooks proved to be a dynamic linebacker, Damien Lewis was inspiring at right guard, and fifth round pick Alton Robinson flashed starter potential as an edge rusher. Further more, while his bold trade for Jamal Adams was inspiring, for my money, what really set this year apart from others was when he sent a 7th round pick and a backup center to the Bengals for Carlos Dunlap, and he picked DJ Reed off the waiver wire from San Francisco. Both of those moves were brilliant ones, both players feel like big factors for this team moving forward, and I think Schneider deserves to be GM of the Year for those two maneuvers alone.
Despite what it looked like against the Rams in the playoffs, I thought that this was one of the best offensive lines Seattle had rolled out with in sometime. Schneider, again, needs to be applauded here by letting right tackle Germaine Ifedi walk in free agency and then replacing him with free agent Brandon Shell. Shell and Damien Lewis look like fixtures on the right side together, and Ethan Pocic did a decent job when given the opportunity to finally play center (the position he excelled at in college). I think Seattle is one talented young left guard away from having one of the best lines in the league. You heard it here.
The kicking game was awesome this year. For all weirdos out there that love the kicking game, and kickers, and Seahawks, this was the season for you. An argument could be made the going down the final stretch of the season Jason Meyers and Michael Dickson were deserving of co-MVP honors for this club.
Lastly, circling back to John Schneider again, the trade for Jamal Adams was a home run decision, in my opinion. Adams feels like the heartbeat player for the defense for years to come, and expect this defense to continue to reshape itself around his unique skill set. I think we have already caught glimpses of that in 2020. Trading two firsts and a third round pick for him feels like a no-brainer now. That’s essentially Germaine Ifedi, Rashaad Penny, and Lano Hill for Jamal Adams. I’ll make that deal every single time over.
The Let Russ Cook movement died a death mid season and this team’s offense never really recovered from it. Some will blame Russell for it, some Carroll, and probably most will agree to blame former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Personally, I think there’s room to spread the blame around equally to all three.
I would blame Russ and his agent for allegedly putting a gun to the head of the organization last off-season that basically forced them into a throw first mentality that perhaps this offense wasn’t entirely constructed to be. I believe it backfired on both the player and the team, equally. I also believe that if he and his agent, Mark Rodgers, intend to play the same sort of hardball with the club again this off-season, the play of Russ through the final second half of the season has lost them A LOT of leverage. They would be wise to shut it down and just see what unfolds after a 2021 season with a new offensive play-caller. That would be the smart thing to do.
I was also not a fan of Russ deciding to take advantage of the Let Russ Cook thing and trademarking that saying. I think it signaled to the team that he was more concerned with material and statistical gain than he perhaps was at the team doing whatever needed to win games. I think it was a bad look that bit him in the butt, frankly, and if I was a teammate on the fence with him a bit, that move probably pushed me off the fence further. If I were him, I would dump that trademark now.
But I also think Carroll and Schotty deserve every bit as much blame as the quarterback does. After the interceptions started coming in a loss happened in Arizona in which the team should have come out with the win, Carroll was calling for the need to run more, and I don’t believe he was wrong in that. However, what followed was maddening as it all unfolded.
They got back to the basics against San Francisco and it was a nice win for the club, but then they lost to Buffalo and Los Angeles (back to back) because they got away from running and weirdly stayed with a deep passing attack that wasn’t there for the taking. Pete, again, called for more of a running attack, and they then won a nice game against the Cardinals when they ran more and Russ had a good game passing off of it, but then they inexplicably got away from it against the Giants, and lost to Colt McCoy, of all quarterbacks.
Even during the final four games in which they won all of, they never really stayed enough with the run, and they made things more harder for Russ, as they kept with calls to hit deeper passes that were not often available. This offense struggled more than it needed to and it was for all to see.
I think Schotty obviously got canned for continually chasing a deep attack defenses were taking away, but we also have to blame Carroll for not putting his foot down enough when he should have. This is Carroll’s team, and he could see what was happening. He needed to be more firm and he wasn’t. People complain that he meddles too much with the offense. I am willing to argue that he didn’t meddle enough.
Also, if I were to put the 2020 Seattle Seahawks inside a nutshell, I would say that perhaps that nutshell showed us exactly what Russell Wilson’s ceiling is as a player. I still firmly believe that Russell Wilson is a tremendously talented quarterback (perhaps still top five), but I also firmly believe that he is probably a very scheme specific one.
I think in 2020, the Seattle Seahawks got away from a scheme and identity that best suites him as a player. I think he is ideal in a run to set up pass offense. This is what he was in college, and it is what he has excelled at in the pros.
If you put him in a Kyle Shanahan offense, I think that team probably goes to the Super Bowl. I believe that is a safe bet. I think that if you have in an offense that Andy Reid is running with Patrick Mahomes, well, I’m not so sure. As much as I love Russ as a player, I’m not convinced that’s a fit.
If Seattle really wants to get Russell Wilson cooking, I am fully convinced that they need to be more like the 49ers, or even the Rams. Russell Wilson would thrive in either offensive. My hope is that in 2021, Seattle’s offense will more closely resemble the offenses of one of those two division rival teams. That’s my big hope.
All fans saying that Russell Wilson is broken, and Pete Carroll can’t coach. Folks, please..
Quiet, Coyote. Let’s calm down and cool the temperature. Russ is pretty. Pete is pretty. We’re all pretty. Let’s all share some orange slices together.
My Wish List for the 2021 Seattle Seahawks
The 2021 Seattle Seahawk offense resembles something closer to the San Francisco 49er offense or the Los Angeles Ram offense (or the Cleveland Brown offensive, for that matter). Any of those would be a great fit for Russ.
Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson must have a long sit down together to figure out an offense that will make both of them happy. There needs to be a strong and well defined melding of the minds. Both figure heads will need to concede some. I think they will. There is a reason why the team had Russell give an hour long press conference very recently. I believe it is to show that there will be a united effort for the player and coach to come together, and to squash speculation that they are drifting apart. But make no mistake, it needs to happen.
Bring back KJ Wright, John Schneider. Yes, there is word leaking out that he wants to be paid handsomely. Yes, he is older at 31. However, I see nothing in KJ’s game that leads me to believe that he is slowing down, and I think he move to SAM linebacker might have been a big straw the stirred the drink for Seattle’s defense turnaround. Bring him back.
Improving the left guard position is a gigantic must. When healthy, Mike Iupati is a good left guard for the power blocking Pete seems to favor. The huge problem here is him staying healthy and he is only getting older. Presently, Seattle just has no first round pick, and they only have one day two pick in the second round. The second round is generally a sweet spot to take a quality young guard. Seattle found Damien Lewis in the early third round last Spring. I would love to see a repeat of that in 2021.
I want to see Seattle commit to Poona Ford long term. He took a huge step forward as a pass rusher at defensive tackle, and it feels like he is just scratching the surface of his potential as an every down player. I don’t want to see him playing in another uniform and every down defensive tackles are too rare. Lock him in long term, Schneider. Do this.
Find Russell Wilson another dynamic target beyond DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. This could mean another wide receiver or it could be a tight end. It’s going to be a challenge to find this with a shrinking cap, and presently no first or third round pick in this year’s draft, but I would argue that perhaps it is best for Russ, as a quarterback, to have another high end outlet. Part of the issue with Russ, I think, is trusting receivers. I believe he needs that trust to be more decisive. Someone either has to emerge from this roster, or they need to go get one through either draft, free agency, or trade. I would like to see them aggressive here.
Don’t be afraid to be bold again with trades. With limited draft capital in 2021, John is going to have to work some magic again. He could do this a few ways. He could continue the pattern of trading down in the draft to collect more mid round picks that he thinks might develop into starters down the line. Another thing he could do is look at his own roster, and see what he has that could be dealt if he feels like he has quality depth behind that player. As we all know, this team has not advanced deep into the playoffs in years. There should be no sacred cows if the right deal is there. Be bold if it becomes available.
Rework the Carlos Dunlaps deal so he is here for the next two or three years. Judging from what I saw in his 2020, this cat doesn’t look like he’s slowing down as an edge rusher. He is going to have a big hit against the team’s 2021 cap, but I would consider eating that because I believe that his presence on the defensive line opens up opportunities for other to succeed. We could all see how Jarran Reed’s productive shot up once Dunlap was rushing with him. It was glaringly obvious. If I am Schneider, I am working with Dunlap’s agent to extend him to a deal that shrinks his 2021 costs down a bit, and I am adding maybe two more years on the deal. That gives the player security, and the team as they try to develop younger talent such as Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor. It’s an easy win winner.
Be care when considering big contract extensions to Chris Carson and Shaquill Griffin. As much as we might enjoy them as players, is either worthy of a big contract? Is Griffin a true lock down corner? Can Carson, for as dynamic of a back as he can be as a runner, honestly be trusted to stay healthy enough? I would love to see both players back in 2021. I just don’t want to see big contracts given to either players that, after four years, are still question marks. I’d rather punt, and take chances on players on the roster and what they might find in the draft.
Finally, if I have one other big wish for 2021, it is that I will finally see my beloved Seattle Seahawks play a football game wearing the iconic team uniforms from the 1980’s. That look was dope, and yes I am a middle aged man who just used the word “dope” in a sentence.
My Predictions for 2021
I think Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson will come together enough for the team to select a new offensive play-caller that both will be happy with. I think there is way too much knee jerk reactions from a lot of folks looking at this situation. I don’t believe that Carroll just wants to run it as much as possible, and I don’t believe that Russell will be adverse to the team running more. I think Carroll wants more committed run but he also wants a sharper passing attack that he can lean into when needed. I like Russ wants that same flexibility. Bottom line is both want this team to win and if running more helps that, I think Russ will be cool with that. There is a reason why the team chose to make Russ available for that long press conference. I believe that reason is to show fans unity between the coach and player. I think both individuals know what is at stake with that, and there will be a mutual willingness for that. Color me not worried.
I don’t know who the next coordinator will be, but if I had to guess, I think Pep Hamilton would be a solid bet. He’s worked with Andrew Luck in the past, and he did wonders with Justin Herbert down in San Diego as the quarterback coach there most recently. He also has strong ties to John Harbaugh who I think Carroll honestly admires a lot as a coach. I think looking at Hamilton, I see an established coach who will be good for Russ, and he will know what Pete is looking for in a run to set up pass offense. I also think Pete and Russ would each get something out of Pep that they would like. Pete would get his classic pro-style offense, and Russ would get a really good quarterback coach as his play-caller. I think also, Pep is a type of coach who perhaps won’t be ambitious for a head coaching gig and that will play big with Carroll. It just feels very destined to happen. We shall see soon enough.
I think that the defense takes a big jump forward in 2021. I think Jamal Adams will have a stronger and more defined roll that will stir the whole drink, and that will make others play even better. I think Poona Ford establishes himself even more as an interior pass rusher. I also think Jordyn Brooks takes a big step forward at linebacker, and so will Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor as edge rushers. I’m not sure if the team brings back KJ Wright or Shaquill Griffin, but I am confident that Carlos Dunlap and DJ Reed will continue to be big factors for this club. I like A LOT of the pieces on this side of the ball, and I really like a lot of the younger pieces to step forward in bigger ways.
I think Russell Wilson will have a solid bounce back year in 2021. I think there will be a stronger offensive identity, who that they can all hang their hats on, and I think Russ is going to show the world again just how efficient of a passer he is when defenses have to play him more honestly. His passing yards may very well go down, but I think he touchdown passes will remain high, and best of all, his interceptions will be down once again. This will be the big story-line for 2021.
The NFC West will be a dogfight division again, but I expect that Seattle will find another way to win it. Prognosticators annually find every reason they can to predict a Seattle collapse at the start of every season, and I expect it to be no different this year. They never learn, and it’s simple folks, the Seahawks have an hall of fame head coach, and they have one of the very best quarterbacks on the planet. They also have one of the sharpest general managers alive who consistently finds talent hidden under rocks. That’s as good of a recipe for winning as any out there. I think the 49ers will bounce back, but I am not convinced the Cardinals take the next step, and I think the Rams are going to find themselves in a pickle because they are stuck with Jared Goff as their quarterback. Seahawks will win this division, I don’t know how, but I just know they will gut out a way. Safe bet.
Once Seattle gets into the playoffs, it get murkier for me. I think they will likely get past the first round, but I’m not convinced that they play in any championship game. Too much recent history suggests that they won’t. Much like a Russell Wilson trade, I’ll believe it when I see it. I also think not getting back to any NFC championship will only further stoke the Fire Pete flames, and the Russell trade talk speculation, and I will be right back at square one, right around this time next year in 2022. I will be writing yet again how this team will not fire Pete, nor they will trade Russell.
I see all of these as very safe bets to make.
Stay well, everyone. Stay safe out there in all these crazy times.
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