A regular season record of 10-6. Led the league in average rushing yards per game. Made the playoffs. And they were a lot better than people predicted.
In a casual conversation at the playground, these are perfectly acceptable, positive statements to make about the Seattle Seahawks’ 2018 season. A more nuanced assessment would have to include some darker observations. And thus it is hard not to feel at least a little disappointed by the team’s showing this year.
The Seahawks of the past four seasons have lacked a certain je ne sais quoi that they used to possess, back during the era of back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015. Since then, they have made the playoffs in three out of four years, which sounds good on paper, except that in each of those three playoff seasons they lost either their first or their second game. In other words, they didn’t hang around for much more than a cup of coffee.
Why aren’t they as good as they used to be?
First, they no longer employ a gentleman by the name of Marshawn Lynch. He was a transformational, back-breaking player who was completely capable of taking over a game and burying his opponent’s will. Unfortunately, his game was never the same after that infamous, Super Bowl-ending goal line call, not that he even plays for Seattle anymore anyway.
Seattle’s solution this season was running back by committee. That rarely works. In fact, it worked about as well as it ever does for Seattle this season, well enough to have them be first in the league in average rushing yards per game. But it wasn’t good enough to beat its best opponents, and it certainly wasn’t good enough to help the team win its sole playoff game, a loss last weekend to the Dallas Cowboys, who, by the way, have a back-breaking running back of their own in Ezekiel Elliott.
The passing game of Seattle’s offense also leaves something to be desired. Yes, Russell Wilson’s efficiency is up, but his overall yards aren’t. And when the running game is not winning games, there has to be another element to the offense to keep people off balance and honest.
On the other side of the ball, no one will mistake this Seahawks defense for the LOB-backed, frightening unit of a few years ago. The one that saw Kam Chancellor regularly laying the wood in devastating fashion. The one that saw Richard Sherman shutting people down on the field and taunting them off of it. Seattle’s defense is young, but so was that previous one. It just doesn’t feel the same.
Now, it’s not as if the Seahawks are as bad as the Lions or the Jets. You can build an afternoon around the game—perhaps with chicken wings and IPA—and expect them to have a chance to win, no matter the opponent or the setting.
But Seattle has fallen out of the top tier of teams, and even in generic jerseys, no one would confuse the Seahawks with the league’s leaders. They all have high-octane passing games. It’s the direction today’s game has gone. Seattle has not installed this latest update yet, so to speak, and it shows.
The league has always been made up of a few very good teams, a few very bad ones, and a lot of mediocre ones. Seattle finds itself perhaps at the top of the middle of the pack.
The good thing, clichés aside, is that it is truly a game of inches. Seattle has enough pieces—Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll come to mind—that 2019 could very well see them moving back into that rarefied, upper echelon where they found themselves a few years ago.
But they could also languish in their current position, or backslide, for years to come. Such is the reality of football. It’s hard for players and coaches. It’s also hard for fans.
Change is not easy, especially when you have a system that worked before. And how do you know if it is a matter of a new system or just finding new players to plug into the existing one?
These are important questions that I guarantee are being asked during this off season.
If you could say one thing to the team’s stakeholders, what would it be?
I know what I would say: Visit a playground. Notice how it looks different than it used to, equipment and layout?
Maybe there are some lessons there that Seattle could learn from.