Now the winningest coach in Seahawks history, Pete Carroll deserves an apology
Following Sunday’s 27-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders, Pete Carroll moved into sole possession as the winningest coach in Seattle Seahawks franchise history.
It may be hard to believe given Carroll's incredible resume featuring a Super Bowl title and multiple NFC West championships, but the embattled coach was under fire for much of the offseason as his shortcomings and flaws were put under the microscope after a disappointing 9-7 season.
The modern game of football has passed him and his outdated philosophy by. He lost his team due to preferential treatment for quarterback Russell Wilson. He’s a college coach with a message that has grown stale for veteran players.
These were the types of critiques, among others, spewed by former players and sports writers this offseason as Carroll’s team underwent a dramatic overhaul in which stars such as Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett were sent packing.
The league’s oldest coach had lost his touch and a franchise once destined to be a dynasty would now crumple due to his inability to control the locker room.
After passing Mike Holmgren with his 91st win in Seattle this past weekend, Carroll deserves an apology. Not just from me, but from everyone else who doubted his ability to still coach at a high level in the National Football League.
I never subscribed to the idea Carroll’s football ideology wouldn’t work in today’s game, but I did question his ability to adapt to changes in the game and wondered if he could still reach players after his “Always Compete” mantra fell flat at times in recent seasons. Considering how things fell apart late in the 2017 season and during the early stages of the offseason, the criticism seemed warranted.
But so far in 2018, Carroll has proven me and many others wrong, showing he’s still got what it takes to win in this league with a young roster fully bought into his program, setting the team up for unexpected success.
Sitting with a 3-3 record and currently sitting a half game out of a playoff spot, the Seahawks won’t be mistaken for a Super Bowl contender, at least not now. After dropping its first two games, however, Seattle has righted the ship by winning three of four, with the only loss coming in a narrow 33-31 defeat to the undefeated Rams.
Executing “Pete Ball” to perfection, the Seahawks have revived Carroll’s formula for winning games by effectively running the football, limiting takeaways offensively, and creating turnovers in bunches defensively.
Few thought the Seahawks would contend for a playoff berth, especially given the incredible amount of upheaval on the defensive side of the football. Along with losing Sherman, Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Kam Chancellor, Seattle has played all six games so far without linebacker K.J. Wright and lost Earl Thomas for the season in a Week 4 win in Arizona, widening the gap between Seattle’s Super Bowl teams of a few years ago and this current squad.
While it’s still early and calling Seattle a contender in the NFC may be premature, Carroll has further cemented his legacy as one of the best defensive coaches of his generation, as this incarnation of the Seahawks has inexplicably remained one of the league’s best despite breaking in a plethora of new starters and dealing with multiple injuries at all three levels of the defense.
Heading into their bye week, the Seahawks rank fifth in total scoring defense, surrendering only 19.5 points per game. While the team’s run defense has been inconsistent to this point, a retooled secondary without any of the members of the “Legion of Boom” has held opponents to 206 passing yards per game, third-best in the league. In four of the team’s past five games, they’ve held the opposing quarterback under 200 passing yards, including limiting David Carr to 142 yards on Sunday.
Offensively, Carroll’s devotion to running the football has also paid dividends for Seattle. After being criticized for abandoning the run game early in losses to Denver and Chicago, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer renewed his dedication to establishing the run and the Seahawks have responded by averaging 157 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks.
With the rushing attack clicking for the first time in two years, Wilson has only been sacked seven times behind a much-improved offensive line and has thrown eight touchdowns in Seattle’s past four games. Not coincidentally, Seattle has averaged 25.5 points per game and only turned the ball over once in that span, serving as a beacon of efficiency.
As with all NFL coaches, Carroll has his faults. As shown late in the Rams game, time management has never been his strong suit. And the comments about his college coaching background may have some truth to them, as his mantras may not resonate as well for players who have been in the league for a long time.
But if you’re still questioning whether or not Carroll has control of his team and wondering if he can still sell his message after all these years of coaching as I once did, the Seahawks have been playing hard for him to prove critics wrong each and every week. He’s back in his element developing hungry young players such as cornerback Tre Flowers and safety Tedric Thompson in the secondary and has been revitalized by the experience.
It remains to be seen how the rest of the 2018 season will play out in Seattle, but it’s clear Carroll’s effort to clean house has galvanized the locker room, his ideology can still function with proper personnel and execution, and he’s having a blast with this current group.
As shown in the past when those three aspects of Carroll’s approach collide, something special and unexpected could be brewing in the Pacific Northwest over the next few months.