You could see the frustration after that Week 10 loss to the Rams. The coach who despised turnovers, the coach who coveted the run had seen enough.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had tossed two more interceptions that game, making it seven over his past four. In each of those games he had thrown the ball at least 37 times — including 50 against the Cardinals.
Three of those four contests resulted in losses — and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wasn’t having it. The next game against Arizona, it was back to the run-first approach that defined Seattle’s Super Bowl teams last decade.
The Seahawks rushed the ball 31 times and gained 165 yards. Wilson threw 28 passes, tied for his season low at the time. They came away with a 28-21 win, and then came the postgame quote from Carroll.
“It felt like the Seahawks,” he said. “It felt like the Seahawks we’ve all seen over the years.”
That game appeared to be all the validation Carroll needed. Not only would it be a balanced run-pass attack for the rest of the season — but presumably for the rest of Carroll’s tenure with the team.
Two days after Saturday’s first-round playoff loss to the Rams, Carroll made that point to the media, saying “We have to run the ball better. Not even run the ball better, run it more.”
The next day, he and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer parted ways, citing “philosophical differences.” Carroll’s mind is made up on this matter, and it’s clear it isn’t going to change.
What this all means? Russell’s cooking days are over.
Seven games into the 2020 season, the NFL MVP award appeared to be Wilson’s to lose. As the Seahawks started 6-1, he posted a passer rating of at least 100 in six of those games and a rating of at least 128 in four. The #LetRussCook hashtag that pervaded Twitter appeared to be justified. Now it will likely be retired.
This doesn’t mean Wilson still can’t be efficient. Perhaps his finest year came in 2018, when he put up a career-best passer rating of 110.9 despite throwing just 427 passes — the 20th-most in the league.
But he wasn’t an All-Pro that season. Not even second team. When you’re 18th in the league in yards, as Wilson was that season, voters tend to shy away.
Wilson will never admit discontent, but you have to wonder if he’s feeling it. He began this season saying he wanted to win the MVP, and it appears his chances of getting one under Carroll have diminished. The Seahawks made a conscious effort to run the ball more in the second half of the season, and that still wasn’t enough for Pete. One can expect sweeping changes to the Seahawks’ offensive approach.
As Carroll confessed, this isn’t something that fans necessarily want to hear. Many of the rule changes we’ve seen over the years in the NFL were made specifically to open up the passing game.
It’s no surprise that the players with the eight highest passer ratings of all time are all active. But the truth is, Wilson brought this on himself.
Aside from a decent outing against the then-winless Jets, Wilson struggled in his final six games. And this came after Carroll put a renewed emphasis on the running game. The attempts went down, the completion percentage and passer rating dropped, and then there was the 11-for-27 effort vs. the Rams, which may have been his worst playoff performance to date. That’s not going to fly with Carroll as coach.
Wilson still may very well be the best player to put on a Seahawks uniform. He is an eight-time Pro Bowler who is in the prime of his career. Big games and dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks are in his future — and who knows? — maybe even a Super Bowl MVP.
But the Wilson that fans clamored for last offseason likely will be no more, so long as Carroll as coach. His outings will not be defined by volume so much as efficiency.
The cooking was a joy while it lasted, but it appears Russ will be hanging up the apron.
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