After the weekend of division-round NFL playoffs, the Seahawks have to be a tad happier Monday that their season ended with the home loss the previous weekend to the Los Angeles Rams, however ignominious it was.
Better to find out early, at home, you weren’t championship caliber, rather than have your helmets handed to you after another futile mid-winter trip amid the pandemic to the cheese freezer.
The Packers’ 32-18 pasting of the Rams in Green Bay was the most decisive outcome of the weekend. For believers in the transitive property, it was a signal how far away the Seahawks were from Super Bowl-caliber this season despite the 12-4 record.
Against the purported top-ranked defense of the Rams, which held the Seahawks to a season-low 278 yards and two third-down conversions in 14 chances, the Packers had points in each of their first five possessions, and by game’s end, eight of 12 third-down conversions, 484 yards of total offense and a 12-minute, 28-second advantage in time of possession.
The domination had an asterisk: Rams DT Aaron Donald, Russell Wilson’s professional-life Joker, was ineffectual.
He started, but played only 40 of 75 snaps because of rib injuries sustained in Seattle when Wilson fell on him butt-first. Donald had one tackle Saturday and was seen crying on the sidelines near game’s end.
Aaron Donald crying is heartbreaking pic.twitter.com/LTa65M6o7A
— NFL Humor (@NFLHumor) January 17, 2021
“They didn’t pressure maybe as much as I thought they would,” Rodgers said dryly. Or maybe Donald is just a big ol’ teddy bear, looking for love.
Whatever, the Packers played, best as I can tell, close to the perfect Pete Carroll offensive game — 188 rushing yards (the Rams had 96) and explosive pass plays to four receivers, including the weekend’s longest completion, 58 yards to Allen Lazard for a touchdown with 6:52 left in the game to close out the Rams.
The Packers were in command on both sides, and even though LA QB Jared Goff and his surgically repaired thumb were credible throughout, he was sacked four times, and the Rams managed just 244 yards of offense.
Green Bay appeared easily the best team among the final eight, especially after QB Patrick Mahomes was bounced from Kansas City’s 22-17 win over Cleveland with a concussion.
No word yet on his availability for the AFC Championship. But even with him, there’s something about the defending champion Chiefs this season that seems less formidable than their 15-2 record. Starting in week 9, the Chiefs won games by margins of two, four, three, six, six and three points, then rested starters in a week 17 loss to the Chargers.
Even though the NFL set a record for points in a season — partly due to mandatory shutdowns for the virus that stalled defenses, as well as an unannounced liberalization of the rules on offensive holding — defenses have resumed their usual primacy in the postseason. Except for one result, the Browns’ freaky 48-37 win over rapidly decaying Pittsburgh, no losing team managed more than 24 points.
It is instructive for Seattle because it has a credible defense, but has a vacancy at offensive coordinator, after Carroll held Brian Schottenheimer largely responsible for the late-season fade that ended up helping produce the worst playoff game of Wilson’s career.
Two candidates are so far known to have interviewed with Carroll, both recently fired head coaches — Doug Pederson (Eagles) and Anthony Lynn (Chargers).
Pederson is from Ferndale and grew up a Seahawks fan, which is nice. But he’s also won a Super Bowl three years ago, which is relevant. Lynn was a running back with the 49ers 25 years ago when Carroll coached there, which is nice. But he was also 33-31 in four years as the Chargers’ head man and was part of this season’s development of rookie QB sensation Justin Herbert, which is relevant.
Both were speculated to have been candidates for any of the six head coaching jobs that opened up. But five of those have been filled, leaving only the Texans’ vacancy.
If neither gets the Houston job, and both want to stay in ball, either would be a good selection for the Seahawks’ OC job.
While no one but Carroll can speak to personal chemistry or priorities, there’s a shared virtue in each that is visible from the outside: NFL head-coach gravitas.
That’s something we haven’t seen with OCs under Carroll. Neither Schottenheimer nor predecessor Darrell Bevell had been top dogs, although their resumes were substantial. What would be intriguing is to see Carroll provide the video of the Packers’ win to either man and them:
And then let him grab it like a boss.
As important, it would be worthwhile for the OC to have the chops to be nobody’s friend.
After the departures of Bevell and Schottenheimer, Wilson genuinely seemed personally wounded, as with the loss of a friend. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Unless the relationship had been getting in the way.
Wilson is an easy guy to like, and his body of work commands respect. But as with most everyone in a high-pressure workplace, sometimes an ass-chewing is required. Which is hard to do among friends. Not impossible. Just hard. Especially if the guy is No. 4 on the NFL’s all time passer-rating list who needs to be told to do better.
Same with Carroll. He was asked recently who in the building holds him accountable. He mentioned GM John Schneider, assistant coaches/sons, Brennan and Nate (Brennan has taken the OC job at the University of Arizona) and former assistant Carl Smith. Not a crew likely to be in a casting call for Sopranos II.
“I would say I always need more help,” Carroll said. “I need to be coached up like everybody else. It really comes out as a competition issue. If you don’t want to hear the truth, if you don’t want to hear the hard stuff, then you ain’t competing.
“And so I’ll go wherever I got to go to get it.”
The pending opportunity may be that chance. Carroll can probably use someone who isn’t in awe of him, doesn’t need his friendship, and who knows the week-to-week ordeal of ultimate responsibility.
Together, Carroll and the new OC might start out aspiring to a small goal of replicating another feat by the Packers.
Saturday was the 14th time this season Green Bay scored on the opening drive, most in the NFL since the 2007 New England Patriots.
Imagine that. Being ahead early.
We know from our readings in the Book of First Carrollians that it is not possible to win the game in the first quarter, etc. But after watching the Seahawks score 30 points total in their final 11 first quarters of the season, the new OC may have the stones to inform the boss it violates no commandments to be ahead in the first quarter.
Presuming Carroll indeed wants to be coached up.
Ultimately deliverables is tied to salary (and should be) and unfortunately the answer to the “what have you done for me lately?” in the playoffs question to Pete Carroll is “not much”.
You can feel the mood in this city turn from confidence to unease regarding Carroll. 2021 season is going to be interesting.
As with any coach, Carroll has flaws and makes mistakes, and he often owns up, which buys him cred. The nature and degree of this loss definitely casts a shadow, which is why the OC hire is pivotal. The Wilson-Carroll relationship needs restoration.
Agree about the need to score on first drives, even if FGs. Too often the Seahawks are spinning their tires in the mud to open games and 3rd quarter.
Scoring first is not the biggest deal, just demonstration of adequacy and a cushion against later mistakes (see the 17-0 lead the Bills amassed in Buffalo).
Great column! Of the two, who is better? Seems an ex-Super Bowl Champion would be a great fit, but what do I know? Personally, I’m really cheering for the Bills to win it all. That would be so cool for those long-suffering fans. Josh Allen is a beast!
Josh Allen is a PHOENIX. He rose from “the dead”. Most “experts” (and Bills fans) considered him a bust, an ABSOLUTE BUST, heading into the offseason last year. And now he’s got the Bills on the cusp of a Super Bowl berth (which will be easier if Mahomes doesn’t clear the concussion protocol, but which I think they can accomplish either way). Great story! . . . IF it happens.
Allen’s second-year renaissance is a cautionary tale for fan bases who are ready to fire rookie QBs if they aren’t Wilson/Mahomes precocious from the git-go.
Thanks, Tim. I think Pederson rates an edge based on resume, but the Carson Wentz collapse happened on his resume. The sad Wentz saga has many contributors that would not be present in Seattle.
A word-perfect column by Art.
Fun column. Happy New Year Mr. Thiel.
Agree with others on the strength…of the COLUMN! Outstanding column. Whoever is OC, they are going to have to deal with the ‘column’ up front, the offensive line. The Packers showed what a powerful O-line can do. Man! It just changes everything. If Lynn is chosen, a man of integrity, I would root for him. And maybe he can be a positive influence on some of the more powerful personalities like Metcalf and Adams. But, irregardless of offensive scheming, if the Hawks can develop a Top 5 offensive line they will be back in the Super Bowl picture.
Thanks, Kevin. The O-line was better than average this year, just not at the end when it counted. Numerous smaller injuries, plus just a flat-out bad matchup against Donald. For a team at the moment with four draft choices, a top-5 line is way ambitious. I don’t think it has to be that good. It’s up to Wilson and the new OC to design and execute the quick-pass game, and use it occasionally up-tempo.
I do think Russell will be quicker and lighter on his feet to start next year. And, right, more of a quick-pass game, more play/action, rollouts, etc. And then, yes, he does remarkable well with the up tempo game, which should not necessarily be saved for the end of the game.
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Excellent column Art – tellin’ it like it is. Green Bay totally exposed how short of the mark the Hawks are.
Just hope PC and JS read your column!
The Hawks had a BAD day against the Rams’ defense, the Packers had a GREAT day. It happens – especially in a league that prides itself on parity and has an unofficial motto of “any given Sunday”.
Not defending the Hawks; their flaws were obvious most of the season (and changed during the season). Green Bay obviously has fewer flaws. Hats off to them for getting past the Rams and getting to host the NFCCG.
That is an old Chuck Knox bromide I’ve quoted often. You may have stolen it from me. I stole it from Chuck. And he likely stole it from someone else. That’s how true it has always been. But every year, many fans greet it as fresh wisdom.
Another bit of ancient wisdom: Postseason is about talent matchups in a single game. Nothing before or after matters but those three hours.
I doubt they have read a word, and if they have, I’m sure they laughed.
Aaron Rodgers piles up offensive numbers and wins regardless of who the head coach or OC is. Rodgers is the de-facto HC and OC in Green Bay. He’s in charge.
There have been a few guys like that. Damn few. Hope all of you can appreciate the dude.
The only other one I can think of is Stan Gelbaugh.
One general aspect of this weekends games, which I hope RW, et al took note of, is how quickly these QB’s unloaded the ball and often threw it away.
That’s it in a nutshell. Rodgers is one of the best at quick release, and he sees the field like no one else.
One word comes to my mind in describing championship teams whether it be offense or defense…relentless. The Packers’ offense was relentless against the Rams. The Hawks offense was relentless in the first few games and the defense milquetoast. Somewhere in there the Hawks’ offense became milquetoast and the defense at least became competitive.
Relentlessness is a good attribute, but it’s product of talent, coaching and health. It becomes easier to be relentless when a team starts with the other three.
I’m sorry, but I have been watching football on and off for nearly 50 years and the Packer game plan was pretty much a no brainer. Everyone talks about the scheme, but it’s the bodies on the field, and if they can beat the person opposite. It’s not bloody rocket science. Seahawks must pay for an effective OL.
I absolutely agree with our point about the Hawks needing to spend $ to have an effective offensive line. But it’s really NOT that simple.
Top 10 O-lines from a CAP DOLLARS perspective (per spotrac.com):
#1: Philadelphia – finished 4-11-1
#2: Las Vegas – missed the playoffs
#3: Dallas – missed the playoffs (but also lost their QB early on)
#4: New Orleans
#5: New York Giants – missed the playoffs
#8: Houston – missed the playoffs
#9: Tampa Bay
#10: Arizona – missed the playoffs
So you’ve got only 4 playoff teams in the top 10 in terms of spending on their offensive lines.
For the record, Green Bay was #12. Seattle was #27. But there were 2 playoff teams that spent less than Seattle did (Baltimore, #30; and Pittsburgh, #31) and another team that barely missed getting into the playoffs (Miami, #29).
As you have proven, there’s never a 1-to-1 correlation between spending and O-line performance. It’s a five-man unit of ever-varying ages, talents, health and coaching. My belief is that if a team has two above-average guys next to each other who can get 4th-and-1 75 percent of time, the line is playoff worthy.
If you have been watching football so long, Doug, you would know that O-lines are harder than ever to build (because of the spread in college). Also you would know that average O-lines can win Super Bowls, as the Seahawks proved, if other elements are high-functioning. Of course the game is primarily about talent, but schemes can sometimes take a team farther than its talent dictates. That’s why they have coaches. But you knew that.
I had a patient once who played for the LA Rams during the Fearsome Foursome days on D line. During the Hawks’ Super Bowl year he said, “It’s all the coaches”
So . . . HAD Seattle beaten the Rams, the divisional round would have been Seattle AT New Orleans and Tampa Bay AT Green Bay.
Given how the Saints played this past weekend, Seattle would have had a shot at beating them.
In the other matchup, I’d have picked the Bucs (just like I’m doing in the NFCCG). Green Bay lost 3 games all season; by 3 points, by 6 points, and by 28 points. Guess which one was against the Bucs.
If that had all played out as stated, Tampa Bay would be coming to Seattle for the NFC Championship game with the winner going to the Super Bowl. Not saying that I think we’d have won that game, but it would have been at home and I would have liked our chances.
Yes, it’s true the division-round match-ups would have been different had Seattle won. My point was how different the results were when GB and SEA faced the same foe. Had SEA been more Packers-like ln playcalls and execution and won, I wouldn’t have written the column. So to quote another Knoxism, I played the hand I was dealt.
And the Packers’ 5-for-5 was proof of nothing EXCEPT they could do it a week after SEA could not against LA (with the Donald injury asterisk as noted). No great proofs are discovered or dismissed in a single week of playoff football. But flaws do get exposed.
Packers also had a week off while the Rams were getting beat up by the Hawks. I saw 6 and 7 hawks not being able to push 4 Rams D linemen off the line of scrimmage. We need to get bigger and more athletic on the O line. (If we can)
Yes, bigger and more athletic is the phrase on the first PowerPoint slide on the deck of O-line prospects for exactly 32 NFL teams. There just aren’t enough of them. The more successful teams make do.
Is Russell currently capable of settling down and working timing routes with a quick release underneath and intermediate passing game ?
That is something Green Bay worked right off the bat until deeper opportunities opened up?
Hopefully he can get his mojo back and learn to anticipate an open receiver rather than always wait for one. No elite QB I’ve watched ever hangs onto the ball as long as Wilson. It seems to be I ingrained in his psyche.
Every great QB has a weakness or two. You’ve identified Wilson’s.
KOMO reported that the Hawks have reached out to Adam Gase as well. I was hoping they might try and lure Kellen Moore away from Dallas but it looks like being a former head coach has some appeal. The only downside would be that they might leave for a head coaching job after only one season. Hard to build continuity in that case.
Yes, NFL Network had that Tuesday morning. Gase was the Broncos OC the year they set the NFL single-season scoring record. You may recall what happened to that team in the Super Bowl.
You also may recall who Gase’s QB was that record-breaking year. Same guy who got to the Super Bowl four times with four different coaches (only QB to do that in NFL history). He made a lot of OC’s look good who didn’t look that good without him. Peyton made everyone around him better.
Watching this weekends games the talent level of game changers is lacking. Especially on the lines on both sides of the ball. Yes the OL seemed to be better this past season but if they were that much better you don’t get schooled in the playoffs like they did. It was sad to see during crunch time so many teams looking competent instead of befuddling mistakes, bad substitutions and horrible game management.
Donald had one tackle Saturday and was seen crying on the sidelines near game’s end. Crying, CRYING??!! There’s no crying in football!!!