Mid-May is a poor time for forecasting an outcome for the pending NFL season. Then again, so is mid-December. The chance for looking foolish, however, at least is reduced.
The notion of looking foolish came up in the NFL Wednesday because the New York Jets fired their general manager after Mike Maccagnan chose a new coach, spent $120 million in the free agent market and chose the players he wanted in the college draft.
Whatever mix-up in medications CEO Chris Johnson experienced before the firing of Maccagnan after four seasons isn’t known. It is known that the custom in the NFL is to change bosses before the commitment to team-building is made, not after. It’s like turning on the sonar after your submarine crew is knee-deep in salt water.
As the Jets’ daffiness applies to the Seahawks . . . well, it doesn’t. Which is the point.
While many NFL teams blunder and careen under dysfunctional leadership, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have stayed off the rocks. They have had their share of controversies and missteps, but the setbacks have been temporary enough that they have managed seven playoff appearances and two Super Bowls in nine seasons.
The Seahawks historically have been more often on the other side, where the Jets are. That includes the reckless Ken Behring years, the caustic relationship between Mike Holmgren and Bob Whitsitt, and the misjudgments with Jim Mora and Tim Ruskell.
The Seahawks dare not mock too loudly the Jets. That’s the media’s job.
Consider the Seahawks’ perils navigated in the last 18 months:
December 2017 — Nearly helpless in the running game and broken on defense, the Seahawks lose 42-7 at home to division-rival Los Angeles Rams, helping lead to an absence from the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
January 2018 — Carroll fires longtime assistant coaches Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable and Kris Richard.
March 2018 — The Seahawks make no major hires in free agency.
April 2018 — The Seahawks stump the football world not only by actually using their first-round pick, but using it on a running back, a position that did not appear in crisis because of the pending healthy return of Chris Carson.
Summer 2018 — FS Earl Thomas, the last remaining Legionnaire from the House of Boom, holds out, seeking a contract extension despite having almost no leverage.
Fall 2018 — The Seahawks go winless in the preseason as well as the first two regular-season games. Thomas’s return, and his career in Seattle, ends with a broken leg and a middle-finger salute in week 4.
Oct. 15, 2018 — Paul Allen, owner of the franchise since 1997, the richest man in the NFL by a factor of four and among the smartest because he knows what he doesn’t know, dies. The prospect of a sale rattles the organization.
December 2018 — Despite national preseason forecasts as low as 4-12, the Seahawks finish 10-6 and the NFL in rushing and turnover ratio, securing a week early a return to the playoffs.
Jan. 5, 2019 — With playoff first-timers dotting the roster, the Seahawks, in front of 94,000 at JerryWorld, lose to the Cowboys, 24-22, and face an off-season with only four draft picks and needing to extend the contract of QB Russell Wilson after arguably his best season.
Spring 2019 — The Seahawks again make no major free agency moves, but extend Wilson’s contract four years and make him the game’s highest-paid player, trade top pass-rusher Frank Clark to Kansas City for two high draft picks, and via trade-downs, acquire 11 draft picks, including three wide receivers to help replace Doug Baldwin, forced into retirement by injury.
Again, mid-May forecasts are as meaningful as fortunes in cookies. The Seahawks still have to extend the deals of LB Bobby Wagner and DT Jarran Reed. But they have more than $20 million in salary cap space with which to do so.
As of the moment, they seem credible playoff contenders. For Carroll, that’s never enough.
In his seasonal post-mortem a couple of days after the Dallas loss, Carroll’s ever-positive look ahead had a couple of points worthy of reflection.
“We had a lot of guys that played for us for the first time that contributed in big ways,” he said. “We can anticipate them really making a big step forward, in terms of understanding the game, what it takes, and developing what we refer to as a mastery of their position and the play of NFL football.
” . . . You can anticipate growing as a player through curiosity, diligence and work ethic. We’ve got to grow. That’s why it’s all on the up, because everybody knows that that’s going to happen. If it’ll take us far enough, we’ll do some big stuff next year.”
Injuries, money and controversies inevitably will complicate things. But entering their 10th season together in Seattle, Carroll and Schneider have demonstrated a mastery of their positions.
Of course, that guarantees nothing, except the Seahawks are better off than the Jets, quite a few other teams, and their own earlier history. On its own, that’s big stuff.