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Analysis: Who Is On Hot Seat After Seahawks' Dreadful 3-7 Start?

An unthinkable 3-7 start by Seattle has put the microscope on everyone in the front office as well as the coaching staff. Whose seat is the hottest with seven games left to play?

Entering the season viewed as contenders in the NFC, the Seahawks have instead unraveled at the seams, losing seven of their first 10 games to plunge to last place in the NFC West. At 3-7, only the lowly Giants and Lions have worse records in the conference, showing just how far the once-mighty franchise has fallen.

As expected, with ugly losses continuing to mount and frustrations growing within the organization, the pressure has been turned up several notches on everyone in Seattle's front office and coaching staff. Four games under .500 for the first time since 2011, many fans have been calling for significant changes this upcoming offseason.

With the team's playoff hopes now slim to none, which Seahawks executive/coach finds himself on the hottest seat with seven games remaining on the schedule? Here's a look at where things currently stand for general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll, and coordinators Shane Waldron and Ken Norton Jr. on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being a cold seat and five being a seat in flames.

John Schneider

John Schneider

Seahawks general manager John Schneider watches warm-ups prior to a road matchup with the 49ers.

Upon his return to the Pacific Northwest in 2010 - Schneider at one point served as director of player personnel under Ted Thompson back in 2000 -the former Packers director of football operations quickly turned the Seahawks into a team to be reckoned with thanks to several fantastic drafts. Most notably, the renowned executive landed quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner on day two of the 2012 NFL Draft, snagging a pair of future Hall of Famers who immediately transformed the team into a Super Bowl contender. That class featured several other key contributors as well, including first-round pick Bruce Irvin, cornerback Jeremy Lane, and guard J.R. Sweezy. Thrifty free agent signings such as defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett ultimately helped the franchise hoist its first Lombardi Trophy in 2013 and nearly pull it off again the following year.

But after hitting home runs in his first three drafts, Schneider has largely swung and missed since a dreadful 2013 class. There have been a few quality day two picks sprinkled in over the past nine drafts, including defensive tackle Jarran Reed, receiver Tyler Lockett, and receiver DK Metcalf. But he has whiffed terribly on first round picks, selecting an injury-prone running back in Rashaad Penny and an underwhelming defensive end in L.J. Collier in consecutive drafts. One player has yet to hit 1,000 career rushing yards and he's in his fourth season, while the other has been a healthy scratch for seven of Seattle's first 10 games this year. Meanwhile, the decision to trade multiple first-round picks to the New York Jets for safety Jamal Adams has backfired with the team currently slated to pick seventh overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. It's also worth noting Schneider has not fared well in free agency, failing to add impact players while placing too much value in busted first-round picks from other teams.

Despite evidence stacking up against him, however, Schneider continues to be held in high regard in NFL circles as one of the premier general managers in the league and he has made several quality trades over the past few years, including stealing safety Quandre Diggs from the Lions for a fifth-round pick. This time a year ago, those same Lions were reportedly planning to court him and the Seahawks promptly extended him for six years through the 2027 NFL Draft. It would be a stunner if the organization decided to move on from him one year later given his track record.

Hot Seat Rating: 2/5

Pete Carroll

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Oct 7, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll reacts to a non-call of pass interference during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Pete Carroll questions a call on the sideline during the Seahawks 13-10 loss to the Saints.

When the Seahawks first hired Carroll away from USC in 2010, the move was largely panned by experts and fans alike. After failing in two previous stops with the Jets and Patriots, many viewed him as an excellent college coach who couldn't reach NFL players and expected similar results to his earlier jobs in the league. But he quickly proved his critics wrong, leading his team to a stunning upset of the Saints in the wild card round during his first season at the helm. While they went 7-9 in 2011, the seeds had been planted for prolonged success and with the emergence of the "Legion of Boom" secondary under his tutelage, the franchise became a perennial contender. Since 2012, he's steered Seattle to the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons, captured four NFC West titles, won a Super Bowl, and passed Mike Holmgren as the winningest coach in team history.

Considering his impressive resume, it's crazy to believe Carroll's job would be in jeopardy. But the NFL's oldest head coach deserves plenty of blame for the situation the Seahawks currently find themselves in. Poor clock management and the inability to orchestrate effective in-game adjustments have been chronic problems for him and his staff over the years. Under his watch, the defense has regressed tremendously over the past five years, failing to finish higher than 11th in scoring defense and consistently ranking near the bottom of the league in yardage allowed. Employing an old school philosophy built around the ground game, Seattle's offense has bottomed out this year as well, leading many fans to believe the game has passed him by. While players continue to support him, his message hasn't seemed to resonate in the locker room the same way it has in the past either, as evidenced by prolonged struggles on third down on both sides of the football. He's also had his hand in the cookie jar when it comes to the aforementioned poor drafting and player acquisition in recent seasons.

Like Schneider, Carroll signed an extension through the 2025 season less than a year ago and earned that contract by guiding the team to an NFC West title. In theory, firing a coach who has led the team to the playoffs nine times in the past 11 years doesn't seem wise and owner Jody Allen likely won't make that move. But with pressure mounting publicly following each loss, at 70 years old, it's possible he could choose to walk away this offseason if things don't turn around in the final two months.

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Hot Seat Rating: 3/5

Shane Waldron

Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron fields questions from reporters during preparation for a home contest with the Cardinals.

Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron fields questions from reporters during preparation for a home contest with the Cardinals.

From 2018 to 2020, the Seahawks finished in the top 10 in scoring each season with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer calling plays, consistently ranking among the league's most potent attacks. But after the offense went into a tail spin in the second half last year, Carroll decided it was time for a change and jettisoned Schottenheimer for "philosophical" reasons, tabbing Waldron as the team's new play caller in January. Coming from the Rams where he worked under coach Sean McVay, the expectation was that Waldron would breathe life back into the offense with more pre-snap motion, emphasis on tempo and the quick passing game, and a diversified run game.

Unfortunately, through 10 games, aside from a tantalizing season-opening win over the Colts, Waldron hasn't been able to successfully incorporate any of those things into the Seahawks' scheme. On the field, the offense has been boringly stagnant with minimal motion or misdirection in the run game, the usage of tempo has been inconsistent at best, and the quick passing game promised by Carroll upon his hiring hasn't materialized at all. An injury to Wilson obviously didn't help Waldron's cause, as he was forced to adjust with backup Geno Smith starting a trio of games. But even with the star quarterback under center, Seattle's offense has been pedestrian at best and the first-time coordinator's inexperience has been evident in his struggles crafting game plans and adjusting them in real time.

Whether fair or not, Waldron inherited one of the best offenses in the NFL and everything has unraveled in front of him. While some may view him as a scapegoat if it happens, if he can't find a way to get the offense firing on all cylinders down the stretch, going one-and-done as Seattle's coordinator may be a very real possibility and the pressure is on.

Hot Seat Rating: 4/5

Ken Norton Jr.

Ken Norton Jr.

Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. during the third quarter of a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Lumen Field.

Since replacing Kris Richard after the 2017 season, Norton has been a lighting rod for fans who yearn for the "Legion of Boom" days when the Seahawks had a historically dominant defense. In five seasons as coordinator, albeit with less overall talent than his predecessors, the team has never ranked better than 11th in scoring defense and 16th in yardage allowed. During the past two years, Seattle has finished 22nd and 15th in scoring defense respectively, a far cry from the standard set by former coordinators Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn. Questions have persisted about his ability to scheme against quality offensive coordinators and like Carroll and Waldron, there have been concerns about his struggles adapting to what opponents do during games.

But Norton has adjusted far better than fans seem willing to credit him for. Last season, after a dreadful start, the Seahawks transformed into one of the best defenses in the NFL in the second half, allowing only 16 points per game in the last eight contests on the way to a 12-4 finish. This year, after another challenging start, the team has once again turned things around on defense and although they rank 30th in yards allowed, they currently rank seventh in scoring defense (20.9 points per game). They also are tied for the fifth-best red zone touchdown percentage (50 percent).

Reflecting on his overall track record, including three seasons with the Raiders, Norton has been an average defensive coordinator in the NFL at best. An argument can be made the Seahawks could find an upgrade, but the reality is that this is still Carroll's defense and he can be loyal to his assistants to a fault. At this point, the seat remains fairly warm, but as long as the defense keeps playing better, he may be able to salvage his job as long as Carroll roams the sidelines.

Hot Seat Rating: 3/5

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