The disruptions that marked the previous few years have been conspicuously absent. Russell Wilson is thriving, Carroll appears rejuvenated, and the Seahawks are trending in the right direction.
This football season began with quarterback Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks, under a dark cloud, yet again.
Just two days before the season opener with Denver, Sports Illustrated dropped a story detailing the deep dysfunction in the organization, most of it centered around Wilson. Or more specifically, what was viewed as coach Pete Carroll’s favored treatment of Wilson.
Some players had taken to referring to the organization as “The Titanic,” according to SI. The grievances with the quarterback – some of which had already come to light in an ESPN article the previous year – ranged from the petty (Wilson had not mingled with the players at the Christmas party) to the substantial (Carroll had shielded Wilson from internal criticism). Meanwhile, players had begun tuning out the coach, it was said, with much of the tension stemming from the ill-fated interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.
The conclusion drawn in the SI article was that the team had decided to overhaul the roster over the offseason in an attempt to “take the power back” from the core of dissatisfied players. Management bet on Wilson, and essentially made it his team.
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As we reach the halfway point of the season, it sure looks like management chose wisely. Wilson is thriving, Carroll appears rejuvenated and the Seahawks are trending in the right direction, having won four of their past five games after a rocky start.
It’s impossible to know precisely what’s going on behind the closed locker-room doors, of course, but the sort of off-field (or even on-field) disruptions that marked the previous few years have been conspicuously absent.
It appears to be a more cohesive Seahawks team, one that not only fought back predictions of doom (which only grew louder when they lost the first two games) but now looks like a legitimate playoff contender. That would be an amazing achievement for a team that had to rebuild much of its defense as well as fix an abysmal running game.
It may be too soon to talk in absolutes – the schedule gets considerably tougher over the next month – but Carroll has thus far accomplished what he set out to do.
He wanted to re-establish the running game, first and foremost. After inexplicably ignoring that edict in the first two games, when the Seahawks averaged 19 rushes and 69 yards on the ground in losses to Denver and Chicago, Carroll vowed to stick with the run and held to that promise. The Seahawks over the past five games have averaged 36.8 carries and 161 yards per game – both of which would rank first in the NFL over the full season.
The offensive line, a source of severe criticism for years, has been at the heart of the resurgence and is ranked as one of the better lines in the NFL.
Wilson, in turn, has prospered in this new (or more accurately, retro) Seahawks paradigm. Though he ranks 27th in passing yards per game (222), Wilson’s quarterback rating of 112.8 is sixth in the NFL behind only Ryan Fitzpatrick, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes and Matt Ryan. That surpasses his career high of 110.1 in 2015 – boosted by a perfect 158.3 mark last week against Detroit.
“Russ is the leader of the offense, and we’re going to go as far as he leads us,” said tight end Ed Dickson, who caught a touchdown pass in his Seattle debut last Sunday. “He can lead us to the top. He’s proven he can lead this group to the top. We trust him.”
Dickson said when he was hurt in the preseason, landing on injured reserve, Wilson was among the most encouraging and supportive players on the team.
“When you talk about a guy like Russell Wilson, it’s the total package,” he said. “It’s genuine, from the heart that he has. It’s motivating. It’s a sense that he knows exactly what to say. You can’t say enough about him.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer raved this week about the amount of preparation Wilson does, which warrants the pre-snap freedom he has to alter plays as he sees fit.
“He deserves it, he’s earned it,” Schottenheimer said. “He does a terrific job of getting us in and out of good plays, bad plays, saving some situations that maybe don’t work. It just shows the trust that we as a staff, myself independently, have felt with him over the last couple of weeks.
“He works unbelievably hard. People probably don’t realize how many hours he puts into it. The writeups and stuff that he sends us as a staff is really pretty cool. … I’ve been around some pretty good quarterbacks; I’ve never been around a guy that’s put that much work and preparation into it. It’s pretty cool.”
That’s a much different view of the quarterback than the one that dominated the conversation in September. That Wilson has changed the narrative so dramatically, and so far so positively, is one of the Seahawks’ biggest victories of 2018.