So if Pete Carroll had a four-year vision in which he thought he could mold a young team into champ like he did a few years ago, tearing it all down would be understandable. But the man has only two years left on his deal.
Perhaps Pete Carroll is a football altruist looking out for the future of 12s everywhere. Perhaps, like many architects, he wants to see what he builds flourish for years to come.
That would be the only way to justify why he would avoid signing key free agents and accepting a “transition year” in 2018. But if he actually wants to win another Super Bowl, a rebuild makes no sense.
The 66-year-old Carroll is the oldest coach in the NFL and has two years remaining on his contract. He also has a star quarterback in Russell Wilson, a future Hall of Fame safety in Earl Thomas, and one of the best linebacking corps in football. The departures of Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, mixed with the injuries of Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, have obviously drained much of the water from this team’s talent pool, but there are still several pieces the other 31 teams would covet.
In short, they’re not far off if they acquire a difference-maker such as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has expressed interest in the Seahawks. But if they do nothing, where does that leave them? A middling squad that can go 8-8 best?
Professional sports is a cyclical business that forces most franchises to take seasonlong L’s from time to time. The stubborn organizations that refuse to rebuild find themselves entrenched in mediocrity, which satisfies nobody.
So if Carroll had a three- or four-year vision in which he thought he could mold a young team into champions like he did a few years ago, tearing it all down would be understandable. But the man has only two years left on his deal. Do you really think owner Paul Allen is going to reinvest in Carroll if Seattle misses the playoffs and is short on marquee talent?
Last week, Sherman made an interesting comment on UNINTERRUPTED when he suggested that Carroll prefers younger players who would more easily buy into his message. He joked how established veterans have heard every one of his stories and could recite most of them verbatim.
Carroll shot to the forefront of the coaching world in 2013 when he took a group largely made up of outcasts — such as Sherman (fifth round) Chancellor (fifth round) Wilson (third round), Doug Baldwin (undrafted) and Bennett (undrafted) — and led them to the Super Bowl. Maybe he thinks he can do that with a new crop in his final two years.
The only problem with that thought process is that the aforementioned players were all great. Few would argue that Carroll and Co., got the most out of them, but it’s hard to think most wouldn’t have thrived in other systems if given the chance.
Those were exquisite draft selections whose natural ability and work ethic were responsible for the bulk of their success. Proficient as Carroll is as a coach, he’s not a magician who can turn puke into Pro Bowl.
Besides, the Seahawks’ shortcomings over the past few years has had nothing to do with the veterans. If anything, players such as Wilson, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright have only gotten better, while Thomas, Sherman and Chancellor continued to excel before injuries caught up with them. The primary issues were on the offensive line and in the running game, which featured less experienced players.
Hey, there is a reason Carroll has a lot more zeros in his salary than I do, so you have to think that there’s a plan. But from the outside, a plan to trade away superstars such as Thomas, avoid acquiring premium free agents and essentially start over doesn’t seem tenable.
At this point in his career, Carroll’s best option is to go big. He should know he might have only one or two more chances to get back to the big game, and has too many pieces not to go for it. He should recognize that Wilson and Wagner have two years left on their deals, Frank Clark, and Wright have one, and that Thomas is an inimitable talent not worth giving up. And he should realize that a monster free agent could have this team humming again.
Obviously, this isn’t 2014, when it seemed every other player in uniform was an All-Pro. Even if the Seahawks do go all-in, it’s a gamble given some of their glaring holes. But it’s a bigger gamble to give up key assets, refuse potential free agents and try to build from the draft. As we’ve seen over the past few years, that hasn’t worked out well.
These are the twilight years for Pete Carroll, whose motto has long been “always compete.” That fits him a lot better than “sometimes rebuild.”