One And Done – Sorting Through The Aftermath Of The Seattle Seahawks Season

A season of wasted potential. After the Seattle Seahawks delivered a 12-4 stretch of high highs and low lows (generally in that order), they collapsed spectacularly in the first round of the playoffs. If there were questions about the legitimacy of their NFC West-winning record, they were answered on Saturday, January 9th, 2021.

This one hurt more than expected.

In case you missed the meltdown, the #3 seed Seahawks hosted the #6 seed Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field (recently renamed from CenturyLink Field). If this sounds like a familiar setup, it’s because the Seahawks played the Rams, at home, just two weeks before. The difference of course, they won that game.

But the playoffs are different, right? The best of the best.

Surely, in the playoffs when it’s single-elimination, win-or-go-home football, surely, we’ll witness the return of the high-octane offense that kick-started the season’s early success. The number one offense in the NFL that slashed and burned its way to five consecutive wins, setting a franchise record, and simultaneously introduced the world to breakout wide-receiver DK Metcalf and launched quarterback Russell Wilson as thee unanimous MVP frontrunner.

“Remember #LetRussCook?” He says with foolish hope in his eyes.

Nope. Russell Wilson played the worst game of his career. Not statistically. Or, probably not, I’m not sure. But taking in the context of the whole season, the wildcard stakes, and the wounded opponent across the field, it’s hard to conclude that this was anything other than the worst loss of his career.

But Wilson wasn’t the only one to falter under the national spotlight. Head coach Pete Carroll and (former) offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made terrible scheme adjustments from the sideline while the offensive line, running backs, and receivers all came up short in their respective rolls moving the ball on the field.

And yet, while there are multiple slices of blame pie to go around, Wilson’s 11 completions on 27 attempts for 174 yards earned him the lion’s share. That’s just not good enough.

Broadly speaking, no football win or loss comes down to a single play, there are always multiple decisions that lead up to any single outcome. But sometimes, a game will have a single play that captures the essence of the whole contest. It usually lives on in fandom lore as the play that pushed or pulled one’s belief that their team would win the day. 

For the Seattle Seahawks 2020 Wildcard loss, it’s Wilson’s pick-six. It went like this.

To get a visibly frustrated Metcalf more involved in the game, the Seahawks called a wideout screen pass. It’s the closest thing to a “safe” pass in the NFL, because with a blocker in place, it’s really, really hard for the defender to make a play on the ball, let alone try to intercept it.

In order for a screen pass to be intercepted, all three players involved, and the OC have to do the absolute wrong thing at the same time. And wouldn’t you know it, the Seattle Seahawks put on a clinic.

It started with Shotty calling the wrong play. In the game two weeks before, he called the exact same play around a similar part of the field, giving the Rams the huge advantage of knowing what was going to happen. The Rams defender, Darious Williams did a good job of spotting it, setting himself up, and timing his actions perfectly to make the INT.

But more than that, Wilson can’t make that throw. He’s got to check the spacing at the line and after the snap, when he’s (unconvincingly) faking the handoff, he needs to be reading the size of the window and either make an adjustment or throw it away.

And on the receiver side of things, Freddie Swain has to throw an actual block. I don’t know what that was (other than embarrassing), but it wasn’t a block by NFL standards. And then there’s Metcalf, and he needs to do two things; stop telegraphing his emotions from the sideline and also recognize what’s happening in the moment and use his size and strength to make the contested catch. Or at least break up the interception. Sometimes a receiver needs to play defense too.

The Seahawks didn’t lose the game on this one play, but I’ll remember it more than any other. Like I said, wasted potential.

More than that though, watching the season come to an end also brought an unexpected layer of pandemic pain as well. Throughout 2020, many of us have been forced into very repetitive, every-day-is-feels-the-same quarantines that zap the calendar of any real meaning. The Seahawks gave context to the last four months that was invaluable.

Compounding that, sports fandom carries a ‘shared community’ quality with friends, family, and strangers alike. Throughout this season, I had several text threads active during the games, reacting to the scores and turnovers in real time. For me, it added a feeling of togetherness that was sorely lacking from regular life.

So, watching my Seahawks lose brought about both the end of my joyful weekly distraction and the return of my pandemic-induced reality. Quite the double whammy.

Oh, and as a side note; the play of the year was DK Metcalf becoming the fastest man alive, running down Budda Baker and preventing a pick-six. You’re going to see that on the pregame highlight reel for the next decade.

So, in the aftermath of the season ending, much has happened. The biggest news was the Seahawks parting ways with Schottenheimer. “Brian Schottenheimer is a fantastic person and coach and we thank him for the last three years,” an official statement from the Hawks read. “Citing philosophical differences, we have parted ways.”

While I agree that the Seahawks can do better and a new OC is what this team really needs, I wonder if it’s not Carroll who really limits things from a philosophical perspective.

I think he wants to win exactly how he did a few years ago – a pounding running game, a shutdown defense, and a quarterback who doesn’t make mistakes. In 2014, Marshawn Lynch, the Legion of Boom (Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor), and a young Russell Wilson fit that bill perfectly.

But nowadays, our running backs are average (or hurt), our defense is average, and Wilson is an elite quarterback who needs more time to throw than he used to. So, I don’t know if Carroll’s tried and trusted method will succeed, but the Hawks extended Carroll’s contract, so he’s not going anywhere. They also extended general manager, John Schneider too.

And to be clear, I don’t want him to go. I want him to grow.

A new OC could help him do that, depending on who it is. Several candidates have been interviewed, talked to, or otherwise connected via rumors to potentially fill the OC void. To date, the candidates are Anthony Lynn (HC, Chargers), Shane Steichen (OC, Chargers), Pep Hamilton (QBC, Chargers), Doug Pederson (HC, Eagles), Mike Kafka (QBC, Chiefs), and the worst of the worst possible options, Adam Gase (HC, Jets).

On the one hand, each of these men has qualities that I could see helping the Hawks’ offense evolve, except Gase, who is terrible. But on the other hand, each one also has reasons to give me pause, especially Gase, who is still terrible.

Of the pack, I think the undisputed best possible choice to help the Seahawks develop into a better offense is Doug Pederson. He was fired by the Philadelphia eagles, with rumors that he lost the locker room. Okay, that happens in Philly. They chased the most recent Super Bowl winning coach, Andy Reid out of town too.

If team culture is a problem, Carroll has that in spades. But what Carroll lacks is offensive innovation, which Pederson sparked for the Eagles in 2018, when they won the championship.

Why would Pederson want to come to the Seahawks? Maybe to rehabilitate his career with Russell Wilson under center.

Pederson’s way too talented and well regarded to be an OC for long, this could be a one- or two-year pitstop before he assumes a new head coach job.

Whoever the OC hire is, Wilson has stated a strong interest in being involved in the process. When asked, he said, “The next person, whoever that is, it’s really critical that we’re on the same page at all times and always talking and vibing and really, really on the same page.”

And entering his 10th season as a top-tier NFL quarterback and leader, it’s perfectly natural. I’d be worried more if he wasn’t expressing the want/need to be involved. And in my opinion, for the Seahawks to return to the Super Bowl, Carroll, Schneider, the new OC, and Wilson all need to be aligned on the construction and direction of the team.

If they can do that—and harness Wilson’s extraordinary talents effectively—the limit for the Seattle Seahawks is somewhere in the upper stratosphere. If we’re being conservative.

Go Hawks.

About Jon Aiken 80 Articles
Born and raised in Seattle, Jon developed a deep love for the Mariners and Seahawks and continues to watch, analyze, and discuss them on a daily basis. As a professional advertising copywriter, the blending of these two loves (sports/words) seemed like a natural creative evolution. He recently moved south to Tacoma, fully embracing his new hometeam, the Rainers.

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