With their loss this past weekend, the Seattle Seahawks have fallen to 5-10 and have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. The Seahawks are perennial winners that had nine winning record seasons in a row. With so much regular-season success the frustration for the franchise rested on the lack of wins in the postseasons. The team has taken a massive step back and missed the postseason entirely, the worst losing season for Pete Carroll in his Seahawks tenure.
“What happened this season that made it so historically bad for this regime?”
The question the fan base, as well as the team, has is simple. What happened to the team that had hoped for a deep playoff run coming into this season coming off a 12-4 record in 2020? Seattle will finish the season with the potential of not even winning half the number of games they did last year. Let’s analyze the key issues that contributed to the failure that is the 2021 Seattle Seahawks.
Plain and simple, they got worse. In hindsight the players that left outweighed the talent of the players that came in. There were good additions in theory that never materialized. Then some departures can be argued it is good long term, but in 2021 it hurt Seattle. Seattle resigned key players in the 2020 season and lost some. I’ll focus on the key additions and losses listed below.
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (1YR, $4M)
TE Gerald Everett (1YR, $6M)
DT Al Woods (1YR $2.5M)
G Gabe Jackson. (2021 5th round pick to LV, 3YR, $22.575M)
DE Kerry Hyder (3YR, $10M, third-year void, 2YR, $6.5)
CB Sidney Jones (2022 6th round pick to JAX, 1YR, $1.75M)
Offensive Coordinator Shane Waldren was hired from Rams where he was a Pass Game Coordinator
CB Shaquill Griffin (3YR, $44.5M) Jacksonville Jaguars
DT Jarron Reed (1YR $5.5M) Kansas City Chiefs
LB K.J. Wright (1YR $3.495M) Las Vegas Raiders
Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was fired, then hired by Jacksonville Jaguars as QB coach/Pass Game Coordinator.
The positives are that Al Woods production is an upgrade over Jarran Reed this season. Woods has six more sacks than Reed while equaling Reed’s sack numbers at two. If Seattle didn’t cut Reed, he was going to make $8.5 million this year with one year remaining. That’s a savings of six million for better production. Gerald Everett doubling Greg Olsen’s minimal production from 2020 is a positive as well. Having as of this time in 15 games four touchdowns and 422 yards. Compared to Olsen’s 239 yards to one touchdown.
For negatives, we’ll start with the Corners. Witherspoon was traded for a 2023 5th round pick. Costing Seahawks $2.5M of cap this season to cover Witherspoon’s signing bonus, that’s bad value for a day three pick two years from now. Shaquill Griffin who was replaced by Witherspoon has a better Pro Football Focus Grade than D.J. Reed.
2020 Roster Problems Not Addressed
Without having two starting-caliber CB’s Seattle is giving up the second-highest pass yards. Giving $15M for a 71.6 PFF graded CB isn’t a good value. But it hurts to lose a starter, then get no one of value for a replacement. The only significant signee was traded before the season started. Sidney Jones had to step in after cutting Tre Flowers and rookie 4th rounder Tre Brown got injured. Sidney Jones has a PFF grade of 65.8. That’s two starters that rank as backups at cornerback.
The point is Seattle’s front office had no urgency to improve, instead saved cap space to take a few losses and try again in 2021. Chris Carson, Ethan Pocic, Carlos Dunlap, resigned as starters. Then the starters they upgraded on were minimal one-year fill-ins TE and DT. Gabe Jackson’s year hasn’t been good, but he has been healthy which is better than last year’s guards. While losing big at CB and LB. The team slipped and didn’t address the holes in the 2020 roster.
Seattle failed to get any better with the off-season while division rivals bought big. This includes the Rams trading for Stafford to get a Super Bowl caliber QB, Cardinals signing J.J Watt, and trading for Center Rodney Hudson who coming into 2021 was considered the best center. It’s hard to keep pace in a powerful division. But if Seattle instead spent on Corey Linsley who is a Pro Bowler in 2021 after signing with L.A. Chargers. Instead of Ethan Pocic for one year, Seattle would have their offensive line inside set for three years minimum.
Ultimately injuries did play a factor. Depth has been a problem for years that the team didn’t have to face. Most notable was the severity of injuries this year. Chris Carson only played four games before his season ended with a neck injury. Then there was the franchise QB who has in the past been credited for lifting the weaker Seahawks teams. Allowing the team’s problems to be looked over because they kept winning. In week five he suffered his first major injury and that changed this team’s season.
Russell Wilson had to have surgery on a finger on his throwing hand. He was expected to be out for six to eight weeks. However, he only missed three games and returned after Seattle’s bye week. However, it was clear he was still injured. Yet, he rushed back in after the team’s season was on the break of being a failure at 3-5. When a franchise QB is injured for half the season it is near impossible to recover to make the postseason. Eight losses are typically the most losses a playoff team can make, rare divisional winners with losing records excluded.
Being 28th overall on offense makes sense with an injured QB for half the year. No starting running back for 13 games. No third wide receiver for seven games. All the Seahawks had this year consistently was two talented wideouts. Average Tight ends at best. As well as an awful offensive line. That offense couldn’t survive key serious injuries and it plummeted the team. When the team was a great QB leading the way, there is no way to recover without that QB.
The trifecta is that coaching failed along with the roster and its construction. Earlier I noted the change in Offensive Coordinator. The feeling around Seattle and its fan base was that the offense fizzled out in the second half of the 2020 season. They failed to score over 30 points in eight of their nine games including the wildcard loss to the Rams.
In retrospect, that may have been an overreaction to have a scapegoat. Seattle in 2020 scored a franchise-record 459 points. With Wilson throwing his second highest number of yards (4,212) with his highest completion percentage (68.8%). All that with his most touchdowns and interceptions 40tds 13ints. In 2020 Seattle had the 17th ranked total offense and 21st total defense. But then making a change on offense is a decision that needs to be talked about in the 2021 offseason with team owner Jody Allen.
Especially since during the 2019 regular season, Seattle’s offense ranked top ten at eight in total yards. While on the flip side Seattle’s defense was ranked 25th in total yards. Ken Norton Jr. and Brian Schottenheimer took over as each side’s Coordinator in 2018. The Seahawks have been average at best in both aspects, but defense has been in the bottom ten while the offense has been top ten. Yet Pete Carroll decided offense needed the change.
Pete Carroll recently has had defenses that start slow and then play okay at the halfway point. The point of a new Offensive Coordinator was to establish the run and be more creative. The knock-on Schotty was he couldn’t sustain drives. Offensively the 2020 Seahawks just threw deep to Lockett as well as Metcalf. Now in 2021, Seattle is dead last in time of passion by almost three minutes to the Jacksonville Jaguars at 31st. Injuries hurt Waldron as mentioned. But it can’t be a complete pass with no consequences.
There is just no offensive creativity that was meant to come after 2020 such as no horizontal passing or stretching defenses out or a jet sweep here or there. They also still underutilized tight ends and had no receiver to use the middle of the field. Pete wanted to get back to a running game and control the tempo. In at least the past five season the team hasn’t had a defense that can do that. This season had the feeling that Pete felt his defense was bad because they threw too much. And Pete Carroll is known to have clashed with coordinators like Kris Richard and Brian Schottenheimer. Pete’s need to control his defense is known. Did he do the same on offense getting an inexperienced offensive coordinator?
A Team Effort
The record the Seattle Seahawks will end with will be the result of shared failures. From the front offense not bringing in differences makers. From the coaches not making the team play well at the same time. The right injuries finally broke the levy filled with cracks. 2022 will be loaded with decisions and will determine what we can expect next year. For now, the reason the 2021 season resulted in a losing season is simple. The team has been straining for years, injuries happened. Seattle has been exposed for being an average team that was thin depth-wise.