Carroll says he thinks the Seahawks have everything in store to take the next step in 2019 after going 10-6 and earning a Wild Card berth in 2018.
INDIANAPOLIS — As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll greeted a few members of the local media at the NFL combine Thursday, there was a brief lull while reporters scrambled to get tape recorders ready.
“I can just start talking if you want,’’ Carroll said to break the silence of what was his first meeting with the media since the end of the 2018 season.
It was a fitting way to begin as Carroll’s comments, both in his main session on the podium here and in a separate session with local reporters, made clear he can’t wait to get going on 2019.
Sure, there are some things for the Seahawks to sort out contractually over the next few months, and the melancholy business of officially saying goodbye to Earl Thomas and maybe K.J. Wright, which could leave the prospect of only Bobby Wagner being left from the defense that won the Super Bowl in 2013.
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But unlike most recent years for Carroll here at the combine, sort of a traditional kicking off point to the next season, there was no real cloud hanging over the team’s head. No explaining again the pass call at the Patriots’ 1. No answering questions about disgruntled big-name players or why he fired both of his coordinators.
We’ll know a year from now just how accurately last season’s 10-6 record and return to the postseason with a wild-card berth portrays the “resetting’’ of the roster that the Seahawks underwent under following the 2017 season — replicating the NFL-best plus-15 turnover margin of last year won’t be easy.
But Carroll made clear Thursday he thinks the Seahawks laid a foundation in 2018 for even greater things to come in 2019. And sure, Carroll’s perpetual positivism could have spun the recent Seattle snowstorm into a Maui vacation.
But if Carroll can be sunnier at some times than others, on Thursday he was so bright that it wasn’t just the future but everyone in the building that needed shades.
At one point he was asked a question about the offensive line having “established’’ itself last season. Carroll, again, could hardly wait to answer.
“Wow, isn’t that cool you are talking about us being established up front,’’ Carroll said. “That hasn’t been the topic for a while so I’m thrilled to hear you say that.’’
Then he followed with 252 more words on exactly why he thought the much-maligned line is now, instead, back in alignment.
“It’s an exciting upcoming season for us in that regard,’’ he said. “For the first time in a couple of years we feel like we are really on track and we have a chance to improve on something we did pretty well last year, running the football. And as the season wore on we protected for Russell (Wilson) much better. The start was terrible and we couldn’t get way from those first two games fast enough. But you can bring that up (the establishment of the line) again if you want.’’
He’ll be even more excited if the Seahawks can re-sign veteran guards D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy, each free agents, something he indicated in both sessions he hopes the team can do, without predicting yet if they will be able to do so.
“I don’t know how other teams look at those guys but for us they really fit well, so we’ll see if we can get that done,’’ Carroll said. “I don’t know that.’’
But Carroll reiterated the team will keep Clark one way (franchise tag) or another (long-term contract) in 2019, and expressed optimism that even if some other free agents get away, the Seahawks will find a way to make do.
A year ago at the combine, the wonder was whether hiring coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and line coach Mike Solari would remake the offense the way Carroll ideally envisions it. Carroll made clear Thursday that despite whatever others may have thought of the playoff loss to Dallas, a template was set in 2018 that will continue (and it may be worth noting here again that for all the national criticism of the last game, the Seahawks averaged 26.8 points per game last season, tied for 6th in the NFL, and over the last eight games scored exactly 30 per game, third in the NFL in that span behind only the Rams and Chiefs).
“The fact that we have had the whole year with Mike and with Brian and they have seen what our guys can do and how it fits together and the style and how it came together, we are just going to be better because of it,’’ Carroll said. “… It’s really exciting. This was an exciting season for us in that there was change and there was growth and that there is a big future.’’
Carroll also felt a template was set in 2018 for the way the new core of Seahawks players dealt with the change, with new leaders and new guiding voices emerging along the way.
“It was so positive,’’ he said. “For all of the challenges that we faced in the offseason putting things together, so many challenges, even with ownership (the death of Paul Allen) and everything. This team found a mentality and a direction and a focus and a spirit about them that really was thrilling to be a part of, and it’s thrilling to look towards the future with these guys. They’re at the core of what this program is going to be all about. … with all of the things that we just did, now we get to take that next step with all of the new knowledge. So we will just be different and better in hopefully some really important ways.’’
So what do the Seahawks do to take that next step to again become contenders for long playoff runs?
“It’s the growth of the young guys so that we eliminate the bad stuff from happening,’’ Carroll said. “You’ve got to get rid of the bad plays and those are explosive plays, particularly on defense comes to mind. The lousy start we had up front on offense the first couple of games we couldn’t get going and we put that behind us, but those are the things that should smooth out and you are hoping that guys all are better, they are smarter they are aware. Think of a guy like (third-year safety) Delano (Hill). He is just going to be so much better prepared and he will just eliminate errors and eliminate miscues and little hesitations and stuff like that. You get a little better in a lot of spots, you get better immensely.’’
How much better?
Well, it isn’t lost on anyone in the Seahawks organization how close they came to beating the Rams twice.
“If we’re able to keep growing and keep going with what we’ve got, we have a chance to be a really good club,’’ Carroll said. “We can be really formidable. There’s nobody in our building that thinks different. It’s an exciting time.”