It wasn’t the ending the Seahawks anticipated.

But Sunday’s 38-30 win at Arizona was the ending the team needed to go into the offseason feeling a little bit better about things after the first losing season since 2011 and first time missing the playoffs since 2017.

The win was the fourth in the last six games for the Seahawks. In each win, Seattle scored 30 points or more.

Still, the upbeat ending didn’t answer all the questions about what will always feel like a lost season. 

Here’s our weekly Four Downs look at some questions that remain with some answers from beat writers Adam Jude and Bob Condotta.

1. Give us one word to describe this 2021 Seahawks season (and then 100 more to explain it). 

Jude: Drama. It was the longest Seahawks season ever, literally and emotionally. Losing stinks for anyone, and especially for an organization that had only known success for so long. Pete Carroll was honest in saying he wasn’t sure how to handle all the defeats. Russell Wilson’s first-career stint on injured reserve was the pivot point in the season. We all recognized that at the time, and hindsight reinforces it. Had Wilson been healthy, it’s not difficult to see this as a 10-7 or 11-6 team. But that’s football, and the drama continues into the offseason.

Seahawks 38, Cardinals 30

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Condotta: Exasperating. The way Seattle finished the season — with wins including against playoff-bound Arizona and the 49ers and a competitive loss at Los Angeles — showed that the Seahawks had the makings of a playoff team in 2021. But Seahawks fans will always be left wondering what might have happened had Wilson not gotten hurt and if Seattle hadn’t lost five games by three points or fewer as well as both overtime games. The Seahawks finished with a plus-29 point differential, the only losing team in the NFC to score more points than they allowed. The OT loss in Week Two to Tennessee when the Seahawks had a 30-16 lead with 13:06 remaining looked like a potential turning point at the time and proved to be all of that and more.

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2. All signs point toward status quo within the organization — with Carroll and John Schneider both back, business as usual. Is that the right call?

Jude: “Culture” is a word that tends to get thrown around too loosely, with no real feel for its meaning. It’s become cliché, overused and misunderstood. It’s hard to define, harder to build. But whatever it is, the Seahawks have generally had it and kept it better than anyone in the NFL over the past decade. Winning, obviously, is the primary ingredient in the formula to develop a positive working environment, and all the losses this season stressed that long-standing culture as much as ever. Carroll and Schneider have earned the right to fix it. It’s fair to nitpick some of Carroll’s on-field schemes and old-school decision-making, but it’s difficult to envision a whole new regime coming in and creating the immediate turnaround that Carroll, unsurprisingly, is optimistic can be achieved. We’re about to find out just how good the Seahawks’ culture really is.

Condotta: Yes. The view here is Carroll and Schneider have earned the right to try to right the ship after the first losing season in a decade. Seattle winning its last two games showed the players hadn’t tuned out Carroll, and this is still a team just a year removed from a 12-win season. That doesn’t mean anyone gets a pass for this season. The Seahawks need to make some aggressive moves in the offseason to avoid this year’s pitfalls. Some fans might question staying with the status quo with Seattle having won just one playoff game in the past five seasons. But the list of candidates for all of the other head coach openings in the NFL shows that any change would also be risky. 

3. What’s your sense on where things stand with Russell Wilson? What are the chances he’s back in Seattle?

Jude: For the Seahawks to turn things around, they need their star QB. They know this, which is why they signaled they have no intention to move on from Wilson. The only way I can envision Wilson being traded is if he comes out publicly, again, and reiterates his discontent with the direction of the offense. He would have to paint himself as the bad guy — force his way out — going against his nature. Carroll isn’t going to alter his philosophy, and the Seahawks’ success running the ball with Rashaad Penny over the final quarter of the season reinforced that approach. There’s no reason for the Seahawks to trade Wilson to a team like New Orleans, which Wilson might view as his dream destination, with an offensive-minded head coach and proven track record. Maybe a rebuilding team like the New York Giants, with a top-five draft pick to dangle and a desperate need for a QB, would give the Seahawks a knock-your-socks-off offer. Even then, would Wilson approve a trade to a dysfunctional organization and start all over? In the end, it just feels like the best chance for Wilson to win — and to build upon the legacy that’s so important to him — is right back here in Seattle. 

Condotta: To be clear, Seattle has never wanted to trade Wilson. Instead, the offseason commotion a year ago was born out of Wilson’s frustration with the disappointing end to the 2020 season. Wilson has said all the right things recently, but what he might really be thinking is less clear. Wilson has two years remaining on his contract, and as such, the best bet remains that he stays. But the Seahawks are also not going to want to endure another offseason like last year. Expect the team to be more definitive in addressing Wilson’s situation this year if necessary.

4. Of the 15 Seahawks who can become unrestricted free agents in March, who is the one player the team should absolutely bring back?

Jude: Rashaad Penny. With his first real shot at being the featured running back, Penny’s influence on the offense was obvious over the final five weeks. He ought to be the Seahawks’ No. 1 priority — Schneider should have made sure to sit next to Penny on the flight home Sunday night to start negotiations. Penny earned himself millions over the past month, and the Seahawks should happily give it to him.

Condotta: Quandre Diggs. His injury Sunday doesn’t appear as if it’s something that will delay his 2022 season. Diggs was the team’s most reliable defensive player in the back seven this year, and he also has taken on an increasing leadership role with each season, something that could be even more valuable going forward if Bobby Wagner doesn’t return. Penny is a close second, and since Seattle has no heir apparent at left tackle, Duane Brown also feels like a priority, especially since he said he’s willing to do a one-year deal. But re-signing Diggs seemed like the right thing to do before his injury and feels more so now.