Pete Carroll isn’t scapegoating Russell Wilson, but the quarterback can’t be liking what he’s hearing following the Seattle Seahawks’ crash and burn. After enjoying unprecedented freedom on the field this season, Wilson is about to be reined in by his head coach.
Carroll has decided that the “Let Russ Cook” approach that worked so well in the first half of the 2020 NFL season turned into the proverbial wet cleanup on aisle 6 and a quick ouster from the playoffs.
Russell Wilson went from MVP candidate to an afterthoughts
Russell Wilson had never received a single vote for the award, let alone been selected the MVP of the National Football League. But observers were sure that was about to change based on a spectacular start to the season. Despite a leaky defense, the Seahawks roared to a 5-0 start and stood at 6-2 midway through the season.
Wilson’s passing stats were exceptional up to that point: 2,541 yards, 28 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 117.1 passer rating. It was largely the result of the so-called “Let Russ Cook” approach, in which head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer gave Wilson the OK to stretch the field with more high-risk, high-reward throws. It worked to the tune of 34.3 points a game.
A not-so-funny thing happened by early November: defenses adjusted.
Wilson’s stats over the final eight games were 1,671 yards, 12 TDs, five interceptions, and a 91.3 passer rating. The Seahawks won six of their final eight games, but the offense slowed to 23.1 points a game.
Talk of Wilson winning the MVP awards evaporated before the Seahawks even took the field for their 30-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card round.
Pete Carroll has seen enough and vows to make a change
The Seattle Seahawks finished ninth in the NFL in scoring in coach Pete Carroll’s 11th season, one notch better than the previous year. However, Carroll wasn’t fooled. He saw the falloff in scoring and yardage in the second half of the season and vows to learn from what he saw.
“We need to run more with focus and direction, and count on it a little bit differently than we did,” Carroll said, according to The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington. “It isn’t going to be 50 runs a game. We’re not doing that. I don’t want to do that.”
Nevertheless, doing what Carroll suggests requires reeling in quarterback Russell Wilson by limiting the number of shots he takes down the field until the ground attack forces opposing defenses to commit their safeties to the run.
The Seahawks were second in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2018 and third in 2019. They slipped to a tie for 19th in the just-completed season, and 53 of their 411 attempts technically were scrambles by Wilson on what were intended to be pass plays.
“Frankly, I’d like to not play against two-deep looks next year, all season long,” Carroll said.
Who’ll help Russell Wilson in 2021?
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If the Seattle Seahawks are going to run the ball more next season, then quarterback Russell Wilson will need reliable backs lined up behind him.
Chris Carson, who had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, slipped to 681 yards in 12 games this year, but he did pick up a career-best 4.8 yards per attempt. However, the 26-year-old Carson just completed his rookie contract, so the Seahawks will need to decide on the future of a solid back who’s been nicked by injuries each season in the league.
Wilson was Seattle’s, No. 2 rusher. Behind him was Carlos Hyde, who ran for 356 yards in 10 games. At 30 years old, Hyde is also a pending free agent.
The bad news on the depth-chart front gets worse: The Seahawks do not have picks in the first and third rounds of the 2021 NFL draft as a consequence of the trade they made to acquire safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets.
The Seahawks can certainly take a running back in the second round. Pending other developments, however, they wouldn’t be able to start addressing other needs until the fourth round.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.