In the wake of the Seahawks’ worst season in over a decade, one can’t help but ask if changes need to be made – namely, should Seattle fire head coach Pete Carroll?
The thought of the Seahawks cutting ties with Carroll was once an insane notion as the now 70-year old delivered the Seattle faithful what had eluded the organization for the first 37 years of its existence – a Super Bowl title (following the 2013 season). However, with great success comes great expectations. Missing the playoffs has become unacceptable, and another Super Bowl title is now the expectation.
Therefore, a 3-8 record so far in 2021 simply doesn’t cut it. Unless the Seahawks win their final six games of the season, Seattle will finish with a losing record for the first time since 2011 – Carroll’s second year at the helm. In fact, the Hawks haven’t lost eight or more games since that 2011 season and haven’t gone worse than 9-7 since then.
Carroll led the Seahawks to a playoff berth in his first season by winning the NFC West division title with an absurd 7-9 record in 2010. That 7-9 team even knocked off defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans in a Wild Card playoff showdown before losing in the Divisional round to Chicago. Another 7-9 season in 2011 didn’t result in a playoff appearance, but it did encourage Seattle to draft a 5-11 guy out of Wisconsin named Russell Wilson in the third round.
The then third-year coach made the controversial decision to start Wilson over newly signed free agent Matt Flynn, who dazzled as Aaron Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay… well, for one game – a 45-41 win over Detroit in the 2011 regular season finale. Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns on 31-of-44 passing while being intercepted once. Despite it being a small sample size, Flynn was highly coveted and landed in Seattle. Luckily for the Seahawks, Carroll saw enough in Wilson to promote the rookie to starter, and the rest is history.
The Seahawks made the playoffs in each of Wilson’s first five seasons and eight of his first nine. Carroll led Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances following the 2013 and 2014 seasons, defeating Denver in the first and losing to New England in the second. However, the team hasn’t made it past the Divisional round since, and 2021 looks to be the worst season in the Carroll era.
However you write it up, the Seahawks are in the midst of their worst season since the pre-Carroll years of 2008 (4-12) and 2009 (5-11), depending on how the team finishes this year. Seattle is currently on a three-game losing streak, marking the second time this season the team has lost three in a row. They’ve now lost six of their last seven games, which was unheard of over the last nine years.
Of the 15 other NFC teams, the Seahawks have a better record than only one – the 0-10-1 Detroit Lions. If the season ended today, Seattle would have the No. 5 pick in the draft. However, the Jets hold the pick after the Hawks traded away their 2021 and 2022 first round draft picks in exchange for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. Adams played extremely well in 2020 as he racked up a career-high 9.5 sacks and was signed to a four-year, $70 million extension in the offseason, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The three-time Pro Bowler hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in 2021 as he has yet to record a sack.
A subpar season paired with questionable moves has sparked discussions on whether Carroll should be on the hot seat. However, I feel it would be a bit hasty to fire the franchise’s all-time winningest coach after one bad season, especially when injuries are taken into account. Of the 115 wins Carroll has amassed during his 12-year tenure in Seattle, 100 have come with Wilson under center. Sure, Wilson has started eight of the team’s 11 games this season, but the QB injured a finger on his throwing hand in Week 5 and had to leave midway through the game – a 26-17 loss to the Rams. Wilson then missed the next three weeks, and the team went 1-2. Perhaps it was too soon, but the quarterback returned in Week 10 to face Green Bay, a 17-0 loss. Seattle lost the two following games to Arizona and Washington and is set to take on the 6-5 49ers in Week 13.
Despite the down year, Carroll shouldn’t be fired. He’s done more than enough to survive a hiccup here and there. As mentioned above, he has more wins than any other coach in Seattle’s history, and his overall record of 115-71-1 is good for a winning percentage of 0.618, also the highest in team history. Mike Holmgren is next in wins at 86-74 (0.538), followed by Chuck Knox at 80-63 (0.559). The 2021 season will mark only the third time in Carroll’s 12-year tenure that the Seahawks fail to make the postseason. And most importantly, Carroll guided Seattle to two Super Bowl appearances (in consecutive years), including the franchise’s only SB victory.
If the Seahawks continue to struggle in 2022, then we can have a discussion. Until then, leave Pete alone.