Now that the nuisance of playoff contention has been dispatched, Seahawks fans can dive into the important season: Endless speculation about whether Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson can continue to co-exist in Seattle.
Hey, if we can have Covid Year 2, we can have Real Househusbands of Bellevue Year 2.
But before the soap opera begins in earnest, there is the continuing mystery of The Blank Slate: Jody Allen.
What will the inscrutable Seahawks owner do?
For the first time since she inherited the team from her late brother, Paul, the Seahawks will have a losing record. They will finish last in the division for the first time since 1996. They will have many empty seats at the Loo for the final regular-season game Sunday.
And if the Seahawks play as poorly against the 2-12-1 Detroit Lions as they did against the 5-10 Chicago Bears in a stunning 25-24 loss, she will be reached by the sports world’s digital denizens demanding accountability and action in acid ways.
When things go well for sports franchises, it is easier for the owner to stay in the background, which, frankly, is the best way to go.
The sports world has always desired less profile from George Steinbrenner, Mark Cuban, Dan Snyder, James Dolan, Jerry Jones, etc. When Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997, not only was he the richest NFL owner by a factor of five, he was the most silent by a factor of 10. Passionate about his NBA Portland Trail Blazers, he reluctantly became Seahawks owner as a civic favor to avert a crisis in his hometown.
But as football success arrived with the hiring of Carroll and a coaching predecessor, Mike Holmgren, Allen could be seen peeking from behind the figurative curtain. Eventually he was seen at microphones, ceremonies, parades and even a few league meetings. From Wilson’s 2012 arrival until Allen’s death in October 2018, Seattle had the best owner-coach-quarterback power axis in the NFL: Allen to Carroll to Wilson.
But when things go bad, the owner gets forced from the background to the foreground.
While Jody Allen can’t be impelled to have a video conference, she will be held accountable for the contracts she has approved: Wilson through 2023, Carroll through 2025 and GM John Schneider through April 2027.
At the moment in a 5-10 season, they all are under-performing.
That doesn’t mean that she must do anything with the principals. But whether she dismisses everyone or stands pat, life as a sports-franchise owner is suddenly uncomfortable.
That of course, is an assumption. Very little leaks from inside the castle walls. The only public appearance she has made as owner was to raise the 12s flag before a game in 2019.
All the public knows is what Carroll shares. This may shock you, but Monday, he said nothing but wonderful things about her.
“She stays on it, and she’s strong in her awareness of what’s going on,” Carroll said when was asked at a video conference to explain her involvement in team operations. “She’s strong in her opinion and what she wants to see done. She has a real feeling about the organization, and the fans and community that surrounds our team, and how she wants that to go and how she wants her relationships to be handled.”
He said Allen doesn’t engage in NFL meetings or media, and gets direct reports regularly from Schneider. Carroll doesn’t call her, but he meets her whenever asked.
Since the collapse against the Bears seemed to signal seasonal failure for a team that in July had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, media and fan calls have increased for a rebuild, an idea Carroll unsurprisingly rejects. Asked whether Allen agrees with him, Carroll said, “We’ve been on the same page about everything that is going on since she took over.”
Then again, what would he say: “She thinks I’m nuts”?
The contract extensions for Carroll and Schneider indicate faith in them, although if she changes her mind, the contractual buyouts would be of minimal consequence to the Vulcan empire she inherited, or even to the annual operations of any NFL club.
Still, losing makes any owner uncomfortable. Especially if the only plausible way forward includes the prospect of trading franchise icon Wilson for the draft picks necessary to rebuild. That’s something that Carroll adamantly opposed last off-season when Wilson’s agent floated the issue because of his client’s unhappiness. And despite the injury that drove Wilson’s sub-par year in 2021, Carroll doesn’t sound like he’ll be any more sympathetic to the idea this off-season.
“With Russ having to deal with what he’s dealt with — which most players could not have handled the way he did — we’ve got to see how he bounces back,” Carroll said on his weekly ESPN 710 radio show Monday. “He will certainly be great again. He’s going to be a great player. I don’t feel like it shows right now. But I think that’s what’s going to happen, because he’s got it in him to do that.”
Nor does Carroll believe he lacks the capacity or resources to dig out from the season.
“We have our way of doing business and we have operated our way for a long time with a consistent approach, connection, communication, and all of that,” he said. “That’s what I’m really talking about, I think you can count on us to figure it out and to make the decisions and choices that have to be done. Coming from a philosophical foundation that we have and have established over a long time, that’s what I’m trying to get across.”
To get his extension, Carroll must have established serious trust with Allen, enough to survive a bad year. Then again, the club’s decline is about more than one injured finger; talent misjudgments have been going on for years.
If Allen doesn’t like the discomfort associated with a sports team in decline (actually, two: The Blazers are 13-20 this season after Allen last year fired coach Terry Stotts; and lately fired GM Neil Olshey over workplace misconduct), there’s always the option to sell.
Uplake from her Mercer Island home is a Medina guy who is said to want in the NFL: Jeff Bezos.
The former online bookshop owner, the world’s second richest man whose wealth is said to be worth 10 times the Allen estate, has been connected speculatively to potential sales of the Chargers, Broncos and Washington Football Team. His global environmental initiative, The Climate Pledge, has affixed its name to Seattle’s new arena.
No insider information is implied here. Just the common sense that says since Allen and Vulcan don’t need the money, the only reason to stay invested in the NFL is if it’s still fun. But 5-12 isn’t fun, nor is the notion of trading Wilson or purging Carroll and Schneider.
On the other hand, a guy who built the Amazon colossus out of his Bellevue garage has the swagger to think he’s just a few clicks away from delivering a Lombardi Trophy to everyone in Seattle.