For over a decade, up until this year, there was one certainty about the Seattle Seahawks. No matter what their struggles and issues were, they could count on at least splitting the season series with the San Fransisco 49ers if not sweeping it.
But things are very different this year with these Seahawks. By switching away from a defense rooted in 4-3 that Pete Carroll has run for decades into a 3-4 rooted defense modeled after the one that Vic Fangio has always ran, I believe Seattle has moved away from a defense that, for all the complaints from fans that it’s gathered in recent years, was always a pretty good against Kyle Shanahan’s exotic, run it at you, style of offense.
Pete Carroll should take a big long look at the team that just came into Lumen Field and whooped his team, 21-13, on Thursday Night Football. Their offense is committed to a great running attack to which their quarterback can make easy play action passes off of to receivers. Their defense is truly dominant and complete.
It should deeply stick into his mind that this dominant 49er defense has been modeled after his famous Super Bowl defenses. They play a similar 4-3 defense that can suffocate the run, and can rush with four.
Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa are jacked up versions of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Their linebackers are lightening quick, and they play a zone coverage very similarly to the infamous LOB. They keep plays in front of them, and they force turnovers by getting to the ball quickly.
Pete Carroll is likely going to have a top three pick in this year’s draft by way of Denver in the Russell Wilson trade. If they cannot pull out a couple more wins in these last three games, Seattle might have another pick within the top ten-ish of the draft, as well, with their own pick.
With Geno Smith’s game coming a bit more back to Earth in recent weeks, there is surely going to be a contingent of Twelves clamoring for Seattle to draft a quarterback with one of these two first round picks. In my opinion, if Pete Carroll wants to get this team into championship contention sooner rather than later, both of those picks should go to the defensive line, if possible; one inside pass rusher, and one more edge rusher.
In my mind, there is no reason for Seattle not to bring Geno Smith back next year, and this disappointing result against San Francisco to which he had no support of a run game (again) did nothing to dissuade my thinking. I think they should look to extend him long term, and build this thing rightly around him. That starts with this defense, and it’s not just a matter of drafting Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, and maybe Texas edge rusher Tyree Wilson.
I believe that Pete Carroll should go back to his 4-3 scheme that puts big men in gaps and allowed linebackers and defensive backs to cleanup and make plays. I’m not the only one who feels this way, too.
Richard Sherman is becoming outspoken about it, and KJ Wright has, as well. Both former players are close to Carroll and the team, and they see the obvious. Clint Hurtt’s 3-4 cannot stop the run with the players on this roster, and, in my opinion, there’s no guarantee it will greatly improve next year with a couple high picks being thrown at it.
Watching this game against the 49ers and contrasting these two defenses spells it out to me. San Fransisco committed a big man in each gap and while Seattle would leave a big gap exposed for a linebacker to fill against blockers sixty or more pounds heavier.
Thus, Seattle had a difficult time getting the run game going again, while San Fransisco could lean into theirs anytime they wanted to, and were almost toying with Seattle’s defense by getting Brock Purdy and their pass game going. When they needed to do it, San Fransisco ran with ease at the most important times in this game.
Yeah, in my mind, Pete Carroll needs to dump this 3-4 experiment, and get back to what he knows best. I don’t even envision another scenario for this team right now.
With the players on this roster, I believe if they shifted back to it, we would likely see significantly better results. Poona Ford could go back to playing a slanted nose, Shelby Harris could play a decent 3 technique, and Quinton Jefferson could play his natural 5 tech spot with Uchenna Nwuso as the main rush end, and I believe we would see better results up front. Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton would be freed to run and hit instead of tangling with guards in their grills.
This is the place that I have squarely landed with on this team now through fourteen games. They have a veteran quarterback who can make all the throws, who knows this offense inside and out, and is fully capable of leading it (especially when it has had a run game going), but they have a defense that doesn’t look like anything close to being one that is capable of stopping the run, and if you can’t do that, you can’t do much in this league.
And the thing of it is, the Kyle Shanahan San Fransisco 49ers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. After watching how well Brock Purdy played in this offense, I sense that they have found their quarterback of the future as well as the present. I suspect next year, after whatever playoff run they make, Jimmy Garoppolo seeks a starter gig elsewhere, and it wouldn’t shock me if Trey Lance is traded to a team with an aging quarterback who they want him to be groomed behind. I kinda think, after this small sample size, Purdy looks that much like the real deal in this 49er offense, and we will see as the season continues and the playoffs begin.
So, if Seattle wants to get back to winning games against the 49ers again real fast, I believe they better make this switch on defense and load it up. People can talk about Seattle having this rare opportunity to draft a quarterback high, but let’s think about how rare it is to draft a total stud defensive tackle, or game wrecking edge rusher.
As for this TNF game against San Fransisco, many will say that Seattle handled themselves admirably in the face of a far superior opponent, and I get that. I think that’s fair.
Geno Smith held in tough while getting sacked three times, and hit nine more times. As was the game against the Panthers, he found his rhythm late and made a run at it, and his overall efficiency numbers were decent enough.
Ken Walker III tried as he could to get going as a runner, but didn’t seem a hundred percent to my sees, and he had very little holes to run through, as the 49er defensive front completely had their way with the Seattle OL (another familiar them lately). That said, he found his positive plays as a runner and a pass catcher as the game went on.
Still, while there were moments where Geno found rhythm, and got the offense going, things stalled by crucial mistakes, like a critical Travis Homer fumble that led to more 49er points, and DK Metcalf doing nobody any favors by being flagged twice for 15 and 10 yards apiece. You cannot play against a tough defense like that, and expect to pull yourself out of it by making these sorts of mistakes, yet somehow, Seattle still found a way to make it competitive in the end.
This tells me that Seattle’s talent is not all together that bad. I don’t believe that it is being helped with the scheme on defense, and I don’t think it’s talented enough on offense to overcome its own mistakes. In order for the Seahawks to win now, they need to be near perfect on offense, and the need to seize the few opportunities on defense they can get like an easy interception opportunity that Quandre Diggs dropped that could have turned the game in flavor of Seattle.
Therefore, instead of feeling overwhelming anger of Seattle kinda shooting themselves in the foot during a game where maybe they could have sneaked out a win against a better divisional opponent, I feel a stronger sense of clarity as to what the path is moving forward for these Seahawks to become a true contender again. They are, as follows.
Keeping Geno Smith and committing to him as the next franchise quarterback. This doesn’t dissuade drafting and developing a quarterback behind him (cough, couch Michael Penix Junior in 2024), but it does mean keeping the continuity of a decent offense together, and giving yourself the gift of stability at the most important position on the team with a guy who has proven he can run it well enough.
Going back to Pete Carroll’s traditional 4-3. Carroll knows it, and can easily adjust it as needed, and with offenses becoming more run centric in this league again, I suspect 4-3 defenses will become the better way to go once again. Plus, this defense better fits the talent on the roster.
Get a veteran upgrade at center and add a guard. If Seattle does one splashier move in free agency this Spring after bringing on Geno Smith into the fold, I think they should reward him with an upgrade and a longer term solution at center. This position has been a revolving door for seemingly forever. Let’s stop that. Seattle’s interior offensive line is making things way too easy for defensive tackles, lately. I think a high second round pick in the draft should absolutely be spent on a guard, as well.
Use those top two picks on defensive linemen if possible. Go get a good young defensive tackle and another edge rusher. Maybe even double dip at defensive tackle in the second or third round. Stop making me envious of San Fransisco’s deep defensive line rotation, and build it up right here. I think Seattle has the right young corners now. I still like Quandre Dings at safety, and they can either bring Ryan Neal back at the other safety spot or try to roll with Jamal Adams again (or maybe they even move him to linebacker), but if they do not seize the opportunity to draft DL with their high picks next Spring, that’s going to feel like a massive bummer. If there is one consolation prize for maybe missing the playoffs now, it is the opportunity to draft higher and grab more DL. Make no mistake, this is the biggest position area of NEED for this team right now.
Get another work horse back to mix in with Walker. K9 has been a fun story this year and will likely become a fan favorite on this team for years to come. His rare lateral moves and home run speed is that special, but I also believe Seattle needs more at running back, and I was surprised that they didn’t do more to bring another one in after they lost Rashaad Penny for the season. I believe that a big plan of theirs was to feature both backs. They could still bring Penny back next year, but given his injury history, they need more. When Carroll was at USC, he had Reggie Bush, and LenDale White. Bush was the flashy playmaker and White was the work horse banger who did the heavy lifting. I think Seattle needs to get back to that model. I don’t care if it’s through free agency or draft but adding a guy who can be the “thunder” to K9’s “lightening” feels vital to me moving forward into next year, and I’m kinda bummed they didn’t make this move this year in season before the trade deadline.
Outside of that, I really hope Pete Carroll can rally these guys and give us a fun close out to this season. I’m not super hopeful for a win next week in Kansas City, but if we can close out the year with wins against the Jets and Rams, and get to 9-8 with a chance at one of the final playoff spots, I think that would be a lot of fun, and it would still make this season feel special.
After all, Seattle just played and lost a meaningful game in December that had playoff implications. Before this season started, few predicted that to even be a scenario, and yet here it is. Now, I just want my team to end this year on a positive flourish. I think they deserve that.
That would be a perfect Holiday present for the likes of me, as well.