Her biography in the Seahawks media guide begins, “Jody Allen is chair of the Seattle Seahawks and a proud 12 herself.”
But in the three-plus years since her brother, Paul Allen, died in October 2018, leaving stewardship of the Seahawks to Jody, she has remained largely a mystery.
That should change soon, and in a huge way, as the most significant offseason for the Seahawks in a decade looms. With rampant speculation about the future of the franchise’s three pillars — coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and star quarterback Russell Wilson — it will fall on Allen to determine the course of the organization.
It’s a wild card that provides a haze of uncertainty to the Seahawks’ future. Will they make a move toward trading Wilson, who on Thursday denied a report that said he would waive his no-trade clause for the Giants, Broncos or Saints? Will they stick with Carroll, who is signed through 2025 but at age 70 is suffering through his worst season as Seattle’s coach? And what of Schneider, who has presided over a series of spotty drafts as well as the so-far disappointing Jamal Adams trade since building a Super Bowl champion?
Much could depend on Allen’s level of activism. Paul Allen was an enthusiastic but largely hands-off owner, one who was known to receive detailed reports from Schneider after each game and was praised for giving the team the resources needed to compete for championships.
The only indication we have of Jody Allen’s thinking comes via a recent report from Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. He reported that Allen has become “very involved” in the operation of the team, that she’s “not happy” with the Seahawks’ results and that she doesn’t regard their struggles as just a one-year blip. Garafolo later posted a tweet clarifying the latter comment: “Didn’t mean she’s disregarding a decade of winning. Point is she’s involved, competitive and even one down year has her wanting to get it right.”
Allen, 62, has not done any media interviews since the Paul G. Allen trust took over ownership of the team after his death, with her as its chair. Her only public pronouncements have been in team statements, usually after signing off on contract extensions. And Jody Allen’s lone public appearance at Lumen Field — the stadium her brother was at the forefront of building to save the Seahawks from moving to Los Angeles — occurred in October 2019. She raised the 12th Man Flag before the game in which Paul Allen was posthumously inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor.
That appearance was touted in some quarters as Jody Allen’s “coming out party” and a signal, amid rumors that the Seahawks were going to be sold, that she was fully engaged in her duties running the team. The Washington Post published a rumor shortly after that event that the newspaper’s owner, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, had expressed interest in buying the team.
By all accounts, Allen has indeed been engaged, albeit behind the scenes. Carroll said in October this year that he had his “normal” midseason meeting with Allen to discuss the state of the team. She is said to be in attendance at most games, sitting in the executive suite.
Now the season-long slump of the Seahawks in 2021 will reveal how the intersection of Allen’s duties as the team’s de facto owner and her status as a die-hard fan manifests itself.
When she was named executor of Paul Allen’s enormous estate, Jody issued a statement that said she would “do all that I can to ensure that Paul’s vision is realized.”
Pertaining to the Seahawks, that has largely meant maintaining the status quo. Under her watch, the Seahawks gave Carroll a two-year contract extension through 2021, and then another extension through 2025.
The first of those extensions occurred just two months after Paul Allen’s death and prompted Carroll to praise Jody’s involvement in negotiations.
“Anybody that’s a ’12,’ that cares for the Seahawks, would be really fired up about how she is looking at this and how she wants to go about it,” Carroll said then. “She’s got a great love and spirit for the area and the club. Must be in the family that she cares so much. But she’s ready to go, and I’m excited for her.”
In January, with Allen’s approval, Schneider received a five-year contract extension, through the 2027 NFL draft. In April, team president Chuck Arnold likewise received an extension through 2027. Allen also signed off on the $54 million contract extension for linebacker Bobby Wagner, the $70 million extension for Adams, and the $140 million extension for Wilson, all of which made them, at the time of signing, the highest-paid players ever at their position.
All those transactions occurred in the context of successful seasons. The Seahawks had made the playoffs and won in double digits in eight out of nine years entering the 2021 season. The dynamics may be different after what would be Seattle’s first double-digit loss season since 2009 (Jim Mora’s first and last season as coach) unless the Seahawks win at least four of their final five games.
It may be instructive to look at the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, the other team Jody Allen inherited from her late brother. Like the Seahawks, the Trail Blazers are underperforming after several years of strong regular seasons but early playoff ousters. The Blazers fired longtime coach Terry Stotts after losing in the first round of the playoffs last season.
A significant difference is that the Trail Blazers are also in the midst of an internal crisis involving an alleged toxic working environment in their offices. After a workplace misconduct investigation launched by Allen, team president and GM Neil Olshey was fired last week.
Those issues aren’t a part of the Seahawks equation. But it’s a clear sign that Jody Allen isn’t averse to making some tough decisions regarding the teams she runs.
It won’t be long until we learn how extensive are the changes, if any, she feels is required to get the Seahawks back on track.