I gotta confession to make. I’m a middle aged dork who still plays Madden.
I do other things that make me somewhat more cool. I drive a cherry red F-250. I sport a handsome pair of sideburns. I expose my preschooler to hip sounds of The Who, and The Flaming Lips. I listen to NPR, do yoga sometimes, and watch shows and films by Taika Waititi.
But I still play Madden, and apparently, I also use a lot of Star Wars analogies, as well.
Eight games into this 2021 season with the Seattle Seahawks has shown me why I still play this goofy game. It’s an okay game to burn a few hours on when you’re home by yourself, but it becomes considerably more enjoyable when the team you passionately root for sucks, and you have become exasperated to a point of wanting to just rip it all apart, and start new. That’s when off-season mode becomes intrinsically the most enjoyable part of the game.
I honestly wonder what the percentages are with all those Anti Pete Carroll types on Seahawks Twitter who also happen to be full blown Madden addicts? It wouldn’t shock if those numbers were actually fairly high (I see you people).
In my latest attempt on simulating through this 2021 season of Madden, I decided to go about it in Owner Mode. I, Curtis Eastwood, thus became owner of the Seattle Seahawks. How I got to become owner of the Seahawks is a backstory I hadn’t figured out. I just accepted it as true, kinda like how I just accepted that normally meager sized Mako sharks suddenly became gigantic (bigger than Jaws), in the cheesy 1990’s flick Deep Blue Sea. It just happened. But I digress.
Going back to Madden, the game reminded me of a few things true about the Seahawks as it pertains to the league. First and foremost, it reminded me that Russell Wilson is an incredibly talented quarterback. Secondly, it reminded me that, apart from a couple nice receivers, he isn’t surrounded by much premiere talent, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, and at cornerback, and that all kinda blows.
Being weaker inside the trenches and on the perimeters of the defense generally is not considered good roster construction. This really needs to stop in Seattle starting in 2022, and it’s going to be a challenge to fix because Seattle, for the second year in a row, won’t have a first round pick to acquire top end draft talent for the trenches, and if they manage a second half turnaround, they likely will be picking later in round two before they finally select a player. Thus, the pickle of the situation.
However, when you consider that Seattle can roll it’s currently comfortable amount of cap space into 2022, another off-season strategy becomes more obvious.
If Seattle is to finally invest into their trenches and get back to winning games more at the line of scrimmage again, spending in free agency potentially becomes pretty enticing, especially considering the amount of younger defensive line talent that could emerge as free agents. If Seattle can just be willing to be a bit bigger buyers than they’ve shown in a while, their defensive line issues could quickly get turned around and fixed for the longer haul. That opens up the draft to address the offensive line, and maybe other positions.
It’s worth noting that Seattle should have a good amount of cap space available next year to be this sort of shopper, if they choose. By making a few roster moves to cut some older more expensive vets, they can easily create even more space.
That could help going a longer way to making Russ happy, but it likely won’t be nearly enough.
Time To Fully Commit To Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson has been pretty loud the last few years with what he wants. Let me remind you the ways.
He has been loud about wanting an aggressive up tempo offense for years now. He very likely feels most confident as a passer in hurry up mode, where defenses can’t as easily sub out. He has been asking for this for years, and even with play-caller Shane Waldron coming in from the Rams (a team well known for hurry up), we have yet to see this become a staple of the offense this year.
Personally, I think it probably flies in the face of what Pete Carroll wants in terms of ball control and keeping his defense more fresh, but facts remain facts. The star quarterback has been annually asking for this to be a thing for him.
In 2020, Russ stated at the pro bowl that what he wanted in Seattle was to be “surrounded by stars.” What Seattle chose to give him was a geriatric Greg Olsen at tight end. He then lobbied hard for them to bring in Antonio Brown, and they put forth a very light effort, for reasons probably fairly obvious. Think what you will about AB, but I don’t think Russ particularly enjoyed watching Tom Brady win that Super Bowl in Tampa passing to Brown. Just my hunch.
The lack of aggression from the front offense to surround Russ with as much star power as possible may annoy him even more than the lack of willingness from Carroll to coach an uptempo team.
Speaking of which, I love Pete Carroll. I think he’s a great head coach, and I will take his culture building strengths over clock management and modern day football analytics anytime. I won’t be shy about my feelings on that either.
I actually suspect Pete is going to have the Seahawks playing competitive ball during the second half of the season, and I can easily see the potential of a 9-8 finish, or better, if they get a healthy Russell Wilson back soon enough. I think they can make a decent run at that final playoff spot, and possibly even snag it. It would be remarkable if they did, and I think it would be a testament to Carroll’s coaching, and Russell Wilson’s rare abilities as a gritty play-making quarterback.
I also think that, even if they did make the playoffs and did a little damage there, it is highly unlikely Russell Wilson will want to return as the starting quarterback for the Seahawks in 2022, if Pete Carroll remains as head coach. I think that is especially true if he sees a more realistic window to get traded to a team like New Orleans who has a roster that’s ready built to win now, and has an offensive minded coach who would probably be pretty willing to adjust his scheme to fit what Russ does best. I can hope I am wrong on that, but I don’t think I am.
I think the only way Seattle can hang onto Russ longer term, and make him happy is if there is a total philosophical regime change at the top and it all starts with Carroll, who isn’t just the head coach, he’s also the vice president of the whole team. For Russell Wilson to want to remain in Seattle under Carroll, I think Carroll would have to completely abandon his philosophy in how to win games, and he might also have to give up more control to John Schneider make roster decisions.
He would have to be willing to have an uptempo wide open offense that would operate more out of spread formations.
He would have to be willing to give total autonomy of the offense to Russ and his play-caller.
He would have to be willing to accept that interceptions are an inherent part of that style of that style of offensive and not dial it back when a pick or two are thrown in a game.
He would have to be willing to accept that quick scoring will likely gas his defense and it’s going to be that much harder to have a statistically top ten defense.
He’s going to possibly have to stay out of way the general manager on draft day, if, in fact, it was him insisting that they take LJ Collier and Rashaan Penny with their first picks a few years ago.
Would Carroll be willing to do all this to accommodate Russel Wilson?
I have my doubts, but if I am Jody Allen, and I am looking at all the weirdness that went down with this team last off-season between Pete and Russ, and I’m also looking at how prices of game day tickets are suddenly in free fall with how this team started the season coupled with Russ’s injury, I am making a very easy decision in my mind. I’m telling Pete Carroll and John Schneider that they need to do everything they can to make Russ happy, and they won’t, I’m going to find another coach and GM team that will.
Part of me wonders if she has already given them this exact vibe.
Here’s how I made Russ happy as pie in Seattle in Madden
Going into Madden off-season mode in 2022, I asked Carroll to step aside, even though we finished as a playoff team.
I replaced him with an offensive minded coach from the Andy Reid tree because I believe that is very specifically the wide open style of offense Russell wants to see himself running during the second half of his career.
I also paired this coach with a defensive coordinator who embraces a more attacking 4-3 defense that puts emphasis on rushing with four defensive linemen. This is really getting back to what Carroll’s defenses were before Ken Norton Junior took over as DC. You rush four and drop back seven, and you rely on a deep defensive line rotation (maybe Seattle should simply bring back Gus Bradley or Kris Richard).
I traded Bobby Wagner to the Jets for a third round pick, I slid Jordyn Brooks to middle linebacker, and I made Jamal Adams the weak side linebacker in this new scheme with the idea Adams to function more as a blitzer and a third down rush specialist. Ideally, I would have looked to have dealt Adams, as well, but his salary was cost prohibitive to deal, and I needed as much money as possible hitting free agency.
I cut expensive older players such as Chris Carson, Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder, and Benson Mayowa. I freed up space to bring in two young every down defensive tackles on multiple year deals to blend inside with Poona Ford to give me a young and rich defensive tackle rotation. I added another younger edge rusher to mix in with the promising talents of Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
I spent extra cheddar to add a younger vet at corner, and kept Sidney Jones who proved to be cheaper than DJ Reed. With Tre Brown in the mix, I felt I could let Reed go, and I felt better about corner, but still considered it a target with the draft.
I signed younger mid level players with some upside on the offensive line for left tackle, right tackle, and center.
I bargain shopped for a couple somewhat proven veteran running backs.
The only veterans (outside of Sidney Jones) I re-signed off my 2021 Seahawk roster were Qunadre Diggs, Ryan Neil, Gerald Everett, and Will Dissly. I felt good about locking up safety and tight end.
With one pick in the second round and two third round picks, I drafted for offensive line, defensive line, taking a center, tackle, and adding one more young piece to my revamped defensive line. The rest of the way, I drafted for depth at running back, corner, and receiver, and more offensive line.
When I looked at this roster construction, the only position that I felt iffy about was left tackle by not bringing back Duane Brown, but I liked the general competition there with the mid level free agents mixed in with maybe some upside with Stone Foresythe.
Is it a risk not bringing back Brown and going with marginal talent at a critical position? Absolutely, but this is the real life game of Tetris that most GM’s have to play annually, especially with rosters such as Seattle’s where their appear to be so many holes.
I chose to attack the market and draft in the areas where the talent was best, instead of overpaying for marginal talent to fit needs and reaching in the draft to fit other needs. With a team that has so many holes, you can’t hit it out of the park with each free agent signing and draft pick, so I just went to for positions that appeared to be clear upgrades. Free agency showed me that there was better talent at defensive line, so I splurged there. Even though I signed a veteran free agent that I liked at center, I saw a player in the draft that I thought was better, and took him.
But how I mainly chose to make Russ happy was pairing him with a head coach who will devote building an offensive attack catered to all of Russ’s strengths, and adding to the defense a better pass rush to take advantage of teams throwing more in games to play catch up. This was my sole strategy.
This is probably what Seattle will have to do next off-season. It’s not just going to be about making a coaching philosophy change. It’s going to have to be adjusting philosophy in the front office. This could mean that Jody Allen might have to make a tough call on John Schneider as well if the current GM is tied to a risk adverse approach, and doesn’t want to budge off it.
The reality of making Russ happy in Seattle and staying a contender
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Russ cares much for risk adverse coaching or front office dealings. I think he’s a total ‘no risk it, no biscuit” guy.
He wants a front office to be aggressive in bringing in star talents like Drew Brees has had in New Orleans, and Brady now has in Tampa, and what Philly has so often done. He doesn’t want to see Schneider make bottom market deals on former first round pick flame outs to see if their is still something there to uncork that another coaching staff didn’t. That’s not going to cut it for him.
He obviously wants a better commitment to the offensive line, but he probably also wants to see a better pass rush, as well. I think most of us can relate.
There appear to be numerous younger defensive linemen set to hit free agency next off-season that Seattle could go more aggressive for. That would fix one major need, and lock it up for seasons down the road.
They could easily address offensive line holes in a combination of free agency and draft. Nothing wrong with a two headed approach.
In my opinion, they need to stop putting expensive resources into positions that don’t involve the line of scrimmage. They need to stop giving big money to running backs, and safeties, and middle linebackers.
The only way I can see justifying Jamal Adams on this roster is by making him a full time pass rusher because that is what is salary calls out for. I would not have him be a coverage safety. I would use him solely as a pass rushing linebacker, and maybe paired with Darrell Taylor on third downs on opposite ends. That could be enough for Seattle to become a top end pass rush team again.
But really, I think the biggest issue with Russ is devising an offense that will play to what he does best, and that is likely an up tempo attack who’s play caller is unafraid of scoring quickly and often. I’ve watched every single game Russell Wilson have played in Seattle. He is, without question, at his best in hurry up mode. Defenses can’t as easily key on him.
It doesn’t mean he has to throw it all over the place to be happy either. He can hand the ball off uptempo just like the Oregon Ducks did to great success under Chip Kelley some years back. He just likely wants to be the aggressor. He wants to be the hunter instead of being the hunted.
I would love for Pete Carroll to see that light and embrace it as a head coach. I think he has been the best head coach Seattle has ever seen as a sports town. I think this idea from some that he is washed up as a coach is ridiculous, too.
Watching Tennessee physically beat down the Rams on SNF by playing Pete Ball solidifies it in my mind that the league hasn’t completely passed over his preferred style of winning. Far from it.
With all the analytics that are out there, football will always be football. The teams that block better and tackle better will always be more built to win. Tennessee shows us that, even without their superstar running back. So, yeah. I’m still a Pete Carroll believer.
But I also have a really hard to seeing him willing to adjust his philosophy to fit the marquee quarterback in this town, and that’s the rub.
As much as I love Pete, if I have to choose between the franchise player and the head coach, I have to go with Russ. It’s taken me a long while to reach this conclusion, but having Russ out during this stretch of games is very likely the difference between Seattle being 3-5 (which they are), and being 5-3 and in firm control of being a playoff team.
Simply put, Russell Wilson is Seattle’s best asset in professional sports. You don’t typically trade off your best asset. You build around it.
This is how I would cook if I owned the Seahawks.
That said, if all I think is true between Russ and Pete like I think it is, and Seattle chooses to go in a different direction this off-season, and Pete remains, and Russ moves on, I won’t be too overly upset. If Pete still has the culture of this team riding high and has multiple first round picks to play with, I’d be intrigued to see what shakes out of that. I just have a harder time seeing it going down this way.
Of course, there does exist the possibly that I completely overestimated the tensions between Pete and Russ, and they find a way to work it out and stay together. This could happen, and it wouldn’t be the first time my intuitions have been off the mark, but then, again, it’s probably not going to make off-season mode in Madden nearly as fun.
And really, football should be about fun.. I think, anyways.