Two Recent Irregularities in Seahawks' Philosophy Prove Willingness to Adapt

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been heavily scrutinized for their complacency in certain aspects of team building and game management. But two recent examples prove they're becoming more open to the idea of organizational and philosophical change.
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The Seahawks have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the NFL this past decade, posting a record of 9-7 or better in each of the last nine seasons. You wouldn't know that, however, if you only read the many social media profiles that make up the "face of the fan base."

While it may be easy to empathize with some of the more common voiced complaints from the community, at what point does it become too much? It's incredibly hard to win in the NFL, and though Seattle has certainly had some disappointing efforts in the postseason as of late, this is an organization that has overcome avalanches of adversity and distractions in recent years to remain a constant atop the league's hierarchy. 

"They're too old-fashioned." 

"They've let the game pass them by."

"They're wasting Russell Wilson's prime."

Say what you will, but any comment that does not credit the Seahawks for their ability to sustain success over nearly a full decade is, at best, an incomplete one. Sure, having one of the best quarterbacks in today's NFL - and possibly of all-time - makes everyone involved look better. But even having the right guy at the helm, let alone a future Hall of Famer, isn't a guarantee of much.

Take the Saints for example. After Drew Brees turned 32 - Wilson's current age - they finished below .500 four times. Following their fourth 7-9 finish in five years, despite Brees playing at a Pro Bowl level, they drafted well, altered their offensive approach to align with more modern operations, and won four-straight division titles doing so. Yet, they don't have a single championship in that time to show for it, nor a mere Super Bowl appearance. Just a quartet of heartbreaking exits and a now retired quarterback with a track record undeserving of just one ring.

To say the Seahawks' success solely falls on the shoulders of Wilson is an oversimplification. It not only undermines the efforts of the other 52 players on the roster, but also the work done by the coaching staff and front office. Yes, you take Wilson out of the equation and the Seahawks are almost certainly doomed to fail; I'm not claiming otherwise. No one is denying Wilson's MVP-caliber ability, nor the organization's recent misfires in the draft and free agency or some of head coach Pete Carroll's questionable in-game management, but Seattle cannot simply snap its fingers and boom—a Lombardi trophy appears. 

Most draft classes, free agency hauls, and in-game decisions are only bad - or good - in hindsight. The mistakes the Seahawks have made in recent years are common; they're not at all unique to them whatsoever. And just because they've historically stuck to their guns on some of their more core philosophies doesn't mean they've outright refused to adapt. Anything that suggests they have across the board is, frankly, inaccurate.

The biggest indication of this was their commitment to Wilson and the passing game last season. Despite popular belief, the Seahawks never wavered in their preference to air it out. However, this is not what I'm touching on in this article, so if you're interested in seeing the run versus pass numbers in the second half of the season, I suggest checking out Corbin Smith's piece on the topic. 

Instead, I wanted to look at two even more recent examples of their willingness to adapt.

The first being a massive one for Carroll and company, which defies one of their most iconic traits. From the likes of Richard Sherman to Byron Maxwell and Shaquill Griffin, the Seahawks have always exclusively targeted tall cornerbacks with arms of 32 inches or longer at both outside spots. That changed towards the end of 2020 when the 5-foot-9 D.J. Reed busted out onto the scene, specifically after a dominant performance against Washington in Week 15. Following the game, Carroll admitted Reed had been a bit of a revelation for the organization when it comes to their preferences at cornerback.

"Everybody's known the long-arm corners and all that stuff, that's what I've always wanted,” Carroll said. “They [cornerbacks] come in different shapes and sizes, you know? And we just have to be open to it and not be stubborn about everyone having to be like this mold."

This quote is incredibly telling of where Carroll and the organization are at right now. They've recognized ways in which they've been too stubborn in their process and how it may have limited them in the past. While it required a specific occurrence to get them to look inward, they were open to change rather than choosing to further ignore the signs.

It highlights a common misconception in the Seahawks' fan base: the organization has its core beliefs and won't move an inch off of them. But that's clearly not the case here, with Reed set to be the team's starting right cornerback in 2021 opposite one of Ahkello Witherspoon, Tre Flowers, or even Damarious Randall—another defensive back who doesn't fit the typical criteria to be a starting outside corner in Seattle's system.

The other example of their open-mindedness can be found in many of their recent transactions this offseason. Staring in the face of one of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL, the Seahawks have found a way to be as busy as any other team in free agency. 

With the cap going down in the midst of a global pandemic, general manager John Schneider and the rest of Seattle's front office had to maneuver the offseason in ways they've outright avoided in the past. Utilizing void years on the back end of several of their latest acquisitions, they've been able to push money out to future years, when the cap is expected to expand at an astronomical rate. 

Taking out the proverbial credit card has never been something Schneider has preferred doing, opting not to restrict himself down the line. It's a strategy that has certainly accomplished its intent, but one that has ultimately kept them out of the race for additional talent, forcing them to instead devoid themselves of precious draft capital to make a splash on the trade market for an affordable piece or two. 

They couldn't do that again this year, entering the offseason with a league-low four draft picks. To make their draft situation worse, they now have three selections after dealing a fifth-rounder to the Raiders for guard Gabe Jackson. It was a matter of either taking what was given to them or stepping out of their comfort zone to build a roster capable of winning a championship. They chose the latter. 

Do I need to say more? They had the chance to work within their limitations and make a few smaller moves to fill out their roster, but with an unhappy quarterback and fan base demanding more of them, they responded by breaking tendency and getting aggressive on the market. They were aware of the circumstances and the financial wiggle room they'd have over the next few years and took full advantage.

That cannot be overlooked. The Seahawks have had their flaws, but they've adapted more than you may think. There's a reason they've been as successful as they have over the past decade. That doesn't happen by chance, nor by the hand of one person. 

At the end of the day, we have to realize we're still talking about humans here. Humans that are flawed and make mistakes under the uncomfortable microscope of fans and critics alike. Even for all the hiccups they've had along the way, the Seahawks have a group of people - and a process - that is matched by only a select few. And they continue to learn and discover new ways to hold that standard.

The Seahawks are many things, but one thing they aren't is irrelevant. They haven't been for years, and the reason for that isn't as simple as some want you to think it is.