is Tom Cable on the hot seat? It probably depends on what happens the rest of the 2017 season.
Answering one of the most-asked Seahawks questions of the day.
Q: Is Tom Cable on the hot seat?
A: It may just be one game into the season but this has been a question I’ve gotten in a few different variations and on a few different mediums — e-mail, Twitter, voice mail — this week.
It’s a question that deserves a multi-layered answer.
First, every coach in the NFL is basically always on the hot seat. Some seats, of course, are hotter than others.
But even the most successful of coaches — head coaches and assistants — can find themselves on the outside looking in seemingly overnight.
Who knew after one week of the 2009 season and a 28-0 opening win over St. Louis that Jim Mora would be out of a job four months later?
Coaches are in an almost perpetual struggle to keep their job, and if the Seahawks bottom out this year then no one is safe.
That said, it’s also important to take a long view when considering Cable and his tenure with the Seahawks.
Recall that Cable was hired following the 2010 season when the Seahawks gained just 89.0 yards rushing per game — the third-lowest total in franchise history — as offensive line coach and running game coordinator.
Retooling the running attack around Marshawn Lynch at mid-season in 2011, Cable was given immense credit for the turnaround that followed (Cable had a particularly close relationship with Lynch, the closest of any coach on the staff — the two share the same agent and Cable is also tight with Lynch’s trainer, Tareq Azim).
Starting with a game at Dallas that has also always been regarded as a key turning point in the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks gained 119 yards or more in all but one game the rest of the 2011 season in winning five of the last eight and setting the stage for the breakthrough that followed in 2012.
And then starting with the 2012 season the Seahawks finished in the top four in the NFL in rushing each of the next four seasons, winning 10 or more games each of those years capped by the first Super Bowl title in team history in 2013.
Seattle’s top two rushing seasons in team history — both in terms of total yards and yards per carry — came in 2014 (2,762, 5.26) and 2012 (2,579, 4.81), each surpassing the 2005 season, a year when the Seahawks fielded an offensive line that features one Hall of Famer (Walter Jones) and maybe another (Steve Hutchinson).
Sure, an argument can be made that Wilson and Lynch and the way they worked together running the zone read was the biggest reason for that success. But as the run game coordinator, Cable is generally given his share of credit for helping to facilitate what happened in those seasons.
When Lynch got hurt at mid-season in 2015, the Seahawks shifted their offensive focus to a quick passing game and Wilson embarked on one of the better stretches for any QB in NFL history throwing 24 touchdowns against one interception in the final seven games.
The Seahawks broke a team record that season for total yards (6,058) that it had set the year before (6,012). The 2014 and 2015 seasons are also the top two for average gain per play in team history.
And as has been well-documented, the Seahawks gradually spent less and less on the offensive line as they had to spend more and more to give contract extensions to the likes of Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Doug Baldwin and others.
When the Seahawks set a franchise record for yards gained in a season and per play in 2015 they did so with an offensive line that was the third-lowest paid in the NFL making a combined $12.8 million ($7.2 million of that devoted to one player — Russell Okung). In 2016 Seattle had the lowest-paid OL in the NFL and as 2017 begins the Seahawks have the third-lowest OL in the NFL.
I’ve heard the argument a lot that Seattle accomplished some of those offensive feats in the 2012-15 seasons despite the offensive line.
But many in the organization would argue that’s the point — the salary cap requires tough decisions to be made on who to keep and who gets paid and who isn’t kept and who does not get paid. The ultimate goal is to assemble a 53-man roster that gets the job done. While the Seahawks only one won Super Bowl in that 2012-15 period, the stats show that statistically, the offense largely held up its end.
The 2016 season was obviously a different story as Wilson got hurt and the running game fell apart and the line struggled as it hadn’t since before Cable arrived.
And the 2017 season did not get off to a promising start with both Cable and Carroll rather frankly saying they were disappointed in the play of the line at Green Bay.
But Carroll — who turns 66 on Friday — has been through a lot. He’s been fired twice as an NFL coach, seen teams that got off to slow starts turn into world beaters. He’s going to take the long view of anything, as he did this week, noting he wasn’t going to panic and pointing out that playing a good Green Bay team at Lambeau Field in a season opener isn’t necessarily the easiest task ever.
Should the Seahawks continue to faceplant offensively as they did Sunday at Green Bay then hard questions will be asked by and of Carroll and the rest of the organization at the end of the season.
But the context of what the Seahawks have accomplished since Cable arrived in 2011 is also important to remember. Certainly, those in the organization do.