After suffering their third consecutive loss and sixth of their last seven on Monday, the Seahawks are solely 15th out of 16 teams in the NFC at a record of 3-8. And while the conference's wild-card picture is mediocre at best, FiveThirtyEight.com gives them just a one percent chance of leapfrogging the eight teams standing between them and the No. 7 seed, including three who currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
There's still a mathematical chance the Seahawks extend their season beyond Week 18, though all signs point to that not being the case. Such an outcome would, in all likelihood, require a 6-0 run led by an immediate fix of the offense's ongoing dysfunction and the continuation of an exhausted defense's recent turnaround with games against the 9-2 Cardinals, 7-4 Rams and 6-5 49ers still on the docket.
But despite facing such unfavorable odds, Seattle won't admit defeat. This doesn't necessarily come as a surprise from a Pete Carroll-led football team, though there's a difference between being admirably competitive and hopelessly delusional. Given the circumstances, proceeding in the way the team currently is feels like the latter.
Waving the white flag is never an easy decision, especially for those who've never experienced such an astronomical failure like Seattle's 2021 campaign. It's been by and large the most disastrous year the Seahawks have ever had in the Carroll era, with many onlookers calling for the legendary coach's exit from the Pacific Northwest.
At this point in time, desperately chasing a playoff berth—one that has seemingly already slipped through the team's grasp—is just delaying the inevitable and ultimately wasting precious minutes that could be used collecting data for the offseason to come. Instead, the Seahawks look prepared to sacrifice development for the sake of their own delusion.
“No, we are doing everything we can, just like we know how to, to win every game with the guys that have done the work to put us in the best position to give us that chance," Carroll responded when asked if he's considering giving playing time to some of the team's younger players. "That’s what we are doing. I would love for everybody to play, I would love to get everybody in the game. We need to get way ahead to give those guys a chance to jump in and work their way back.”
If Carroll's statement wasn't enough, the Seahawks made their stance very clear with the practice squad signing of 36-year old running back Adrian Peterson. Further driving the point home that winning is still at the forefront of their minds, Carroll indicated the veteran has a chance to play in Sunday's game against the 49ers with Rashaad Penny (hamstring) and Travis Homer (calf) both nursing injuries.
“We’re trying to get ready to win this football game," Carroll continued. "So, I’m going to see if Adrian’s got something to offer us. Just in his presence and his toughness, he brings something. Let’s see what happens. We’re just trying to get the right mix. Rashaad’s been in and out, been concerned about him getting back and staying back. Homer has been banged up, and we’re not sure about him this week either, so it looks like there’s some opportunities. We’ll see how it goes and see how the guys respond. I’m just as excited as probably you guys are to see what he looks like playing in our uniform and doing something for us. We’ll see how it goes.”
It's no surprise why Carroll likes Peterson; he's a physical runner with a Hall of Fame pedigree who's sustained an extraordinarily long career at his position. However, his arrival is yet another instance of Seattle contradicting its stance on domestic abuse.
In 2014, Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges for disciplining his son, who was four years old at the time, with a tree branch. Disturbing photos later obtained by TMZ revealed many cuts, scrapes and bruises on the child's legs. As a consequence for his actions, Peterson was suspended for the remainder of the year after one game.
In a 2018 interview with Bleacher Report's Master Tesfatsion, Peterson revealed that he still makes use of corporal punishment, noting, "I had to discipline my son and spank him the other day with a belt."
Peterson then doubled down, admitting that his legal issues failed to alter his parenting style.
"There's different ways I discipline my kids," Peterson told Tesfatsion. "I didn't let that change me."
The conversation of morality and football have never gone hand-in-hand. Peterson is just one of many players and personnel whose troubled pasts have been ignored by Carroll and the Seahawks for the sake of on-field production. And for every Frank Clark and Tony McDaniel, there's been Aldon Smith, Cary Williams, Tramaine Brock and others.
Yet, despite several of these "second chances" backfiring, the Seahawks insist on reloading the chamber—even when their season has been more or less pronounced dead. Frankly, all they appear to be doing is dumping gasoline on a forest fire.
Carroll, naturally, feels otherwise.
"He’s a player that I have known for forever, way back to his high school days, and admired him tremendously over the years," Carroll expressed. "I’m always disappointed that we didn’t get him back in the day, but like I just told him, we finally got him. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does and where he can fit in. He’s an incredible competitor and a great guy, so I’m anxious to give him a chance to get on the field with our boys.”
From Terrell Owens to Greg Olsen, Devin Hester, Kevin Williams and Dwight Freeney, the Seahawks have never shied away from trying to extract one last drop of greatness from the end of a legendary career. And unlike some of the aforementioned names, Peterson has been moderately efficient as recent as last year.
With the Lions in 2020, Peterson averaged 3.9 yards per carry in 16 games, tallying 604 yards and seven touchdowns. He then sat out the start of the 2021 season until the Titans came calling in November when Derrick Henry (foot) was forced to injured reserve. Playing three games for Tennessee, Peterson carried the ball 27 times for 82 yards and found the end zone once, only to eventually be waived on November 23 in favor of Dontrell Hilliard and D'Onta Foreman.
Looking to establish some form of balance to their struggling offensive attack, the Seahawks are hoping Peterson can provide a spark to a running back room that, outside of Penny and Homer, has also lost incumbent starter Chris Carson (neck) for the rest of the season. Alex Collins, who's battled a trio of ailments over the course of the year, has been the team's primary ball carrier in Carson's absence. He and second-year man DeeJay Dallas combined for just 18 yards on 10 touches in Monday night's 17-15 loss to Washington.
Collins, Penny and Peterson will all be unrestricted free agents in March. That leaves Dallas, Homer and practice squad back Josh Johnson as Seattle's few potential long-term options at the position. Johnson was elevated from the practice squad on Monday night, although he didn't see a single offensive snap. He can be elevated for one more game, but the Seahawks will likely instead give that honor to Peterson, who may only offer a s uptick in production at best.
At 3-8, it would seem wise to use these last six games as a chance to see what the team has on the back end of its roster before heading into a crucial offseason. But alas, Seattle appears to have no such plans, instead preparing to hand precious snaps to an aging, problematic running back in a hopeless attempt to salvage an already lost season.
It's a betrayal of Carroll's "Always Compete" mantra, which he admitted he got away from a season ago and wanted to re-emphasize in 2021. That hasn't been the case, however, and the contradiction of his offseason statements—and his philosophy as a whole—is on full display in the form of Peterson.