The last time the Seahawks had snow at a game in the home stadium, it was the home finale of the 2008 season, a 13-3 win over the New York Jets, in a year that wound up 4-12. It was also the final home game of Mike Holmgren’s 10-year coaching career in Seattle.
He took a post-game farewell lap around the field, waving to fans who were appreciative that three years earlier, he took the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl.
But some rowdies in the crowd hurled snowballs at him from the upper deck. No one came close to a direct hit. Much like their team.
Sunday at the Loo, the Seahawks had a snow game. The similarities end there.
Not only did the Seahawks lose in ghastly fashion, 25-24 (box), the Chicago Bears had lost eight of their previous nine games, were missing five starters to covid, lost three to in-game injuries, and started at QB third-stringer Nick Foles, getting his first playing time of the season. There were rumors that coach Matt Nagy might be fired as soon as this week.
Also different was that coach Pete Carroll had no reason to take a farewell lap. He has a contract through 2025. But had he made himself available, some fans might have expressed themselves in the same manner as their predecessors did to Holmgren.
It wasn’t designated as anyone’s final game, just the official elimination from the playoff race. But if the Seahawks don’t do better in the next two weeks, at home against Detroit and on the road at Arizona, the subsequent 5-12 record will invite serious consideration as to whether 2021 might be Carroll’s final lap in Seattle.
Up until now, his future had been idle speculation from media and fans driven by the impulse of instant gratification.
But the way the Seahawks lost, blowing a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead despite the healthy presences of QB Russell Wilson, WRs Tyler Lockett an DK Metcalf, and a 136-yard rushing day from RB Rashaad Penny, invites a reckoning as to whether Carroll’s proven methods have run their courses in Seattle.
His messages do not seem to be getting through. Week after week, the Seahawks run on the same hamster wheel, finding no off-ramps. His despair is plain, his solutions unclear, and he’s taking full responsibility.
“I’ve got to do a better job,” he said. “I feel like I have to do more. At a time like this, I feel like I’ve gotta find ways to help our guys more, so we don’t get in a situation where we give (opponents) a chance.
“That was about as disappointing a loss as we’ve had.”
The failures in the fourth quarter, where Wilson and the Seahawks once were kings, have become brutal.
“This team was notorious for coming up in the clutch and winning,” said second-year LB Jordyn Brooks, who was a kid when the Seahawks became great. “Now we’re on the other side of it.”
The nearly season-long incompetence on third downs — this time, 3 of 10 conversions — seemed to reach a nadir with about eight minutes to go and the Seahawks, leading 24-17, driving for a two-score lead that would nearly close the door. Entering the game, the Seahawks’ third-down conversion rate of 34 percent — down from last year’s 38.4 percent — was ahead of only the woeful Bears and Lions.
Having failed earlier in the fourth quarter by going 3-and-out with a possession that began on the Chicago 49-yard line, this time the Seahawks were at the Bears 8 facing a third and four.
From the shotgun, Wilson found no one open. But rather than force it or just throw away the ball and accept a field goal attempt, he tried to keep the play alive with one of his legendary reverse pivots. This time, Robert Quinn, a nemesis from his days as a Ram, grabbed his jersey and pulled down Wilson for a 13-yard loss.
Once-reliable Jason Myers then missed his fifth field goal of the season, from 39 yards, barely left, which would have been good from a shorter distance.
After an exchange of possessions, the Bears vroomed 80 yards in six plays against a fatigued Seattle defense, the final insult a game-winning touchdown pass with 1:01 left from Foles to TE Jimmy Graham, the former Seahawk whose 2015 acquisition will forever be held against Carroll by some of his critics. The two-point conversion pass seemed mandatory, and was successful.
As it used to be in Seahawks days of yore.
As Wilson said, “I was trying to play ball like I know how to do, and always do — try to move around and try to see if we can find a touchdown there.”
Here’s how Carroll described the sack. Read this closely:
“We’ve got to get rid of the football. We can’t take a sack there. Again, that’s what I’m talking about. I’ve got to get that done. I’ve got to get them to execute that way. I’ve got to get Russ to pull that off. I’ve got to get the coaches to make sure we reminded him well enough so that didn’t happen.”
That paragraph gets to the crux of the problem.
Carroll can’t make Wilson do that any more than Wilson can make Carroll sing a blues song.
Wilson believes that’s the sort of instinctive play that made him great, and will continue to do so, despite age and injury. Carroll believes he and his coaches can cure Wilson of the habit, despite a decade’s worth of evidence otherwise. To torture the music metaphor, Carroll wants to conduct an orchestra, Wilson wants to play club jazz.
Neither is necessarily wrong, but the Seahawks no longer have the talent to cover the discordant notes. Wilson’s numbers — 16 for 27 for 181 yards, two touchdown and no turnover, for a rating of 104.1 — belie the fact that he’s no longer as good on third down.
Wilson’s 35 fourth-quarter, game-winning drives rank first in the NFL since the beginning of 2012. The Seahawks this season are 0-for-9 when trailing in the fourth quarter.
Besides the disconnect between Carroll and Wilson, there is a third victim — the decay has set in on DK.
Wilson’s third pass of the game was a perfect, 41-yard throw-and-catch to DK Metcalf, arguably the best combo of size, strength and speed among NFL wideouts. It was his first TD catch since Halloween. The rest of the game, he caught one pass for no yards on five targets.
Sure, he gets double-teamed. But the entire Judeo-Christian world knows Cooper Kupp is the target nearly every play, but somehow the Rams scheme and throw him open.
Carroll didn’t specifically address the Metcalf drought. He was too busy using the high road of coaching accountability — the snow, cold, wind, and last week’s covid debacle, were non-factors, he said –something he has always done. But with each use, it wears thinner.
“I’m not calling players for not responding (to his instructions),” he said. “I have to respond better. I’ve got to do more for them, and help them more so. Maybe that’s coach’s ego or whatever, but I don’t mind holding myself to that kind of accountability.”
When you’re the boss of bosses, the risk is low for that kind of public remark. Not the message it’s cracked up to be.
The fact is when you’ve tried everything already, and you’re 5-10 with the greatest fourth-quarter quarterback in the NFL, your message is no longer getting through.