By any measure, the Seahawks have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the NFL since Pete Carroll arrived in 2010.
They are 112-63-1 in his 11 seasons, the fourth-best record in the NFL, with nine playoff appearances and 10 playoff wins. Only New England (16) and Green Bay (11) have more playoff wins than Seattle in that span and only the Patriots have more Super Bowl wins.
So why the angst this offseason, with talk that the team is at a crossroads?
That’s because while Seattle has kept making the playoffs since its two Super Bowl appearances following the 2013 and 2014 seasons, it hasn’t done much once it got there.
The Seahawks have not advanced past the divisional round in their past five playoff appearances, losing by an average of eight points.
“Frustration? I mean, yeah, of course I’m frustrated,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said after the latest playoff loss last January, 30-20 against the Rams in the wild-card round at Lumen Field.
Adding to the frustration is that the last five Seattle playoff losses have had a numbing sameness, with the Seahawks usually falling behind early — generally thanks to a stagnant offense – before mounting a late, but futile comeback.
If it’s too simplistic to say the loss to the Rams was the cause of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer getting fired and Shane Waldron getting hired as his replacement, it certainly played a significant role.
The regular season is fine, but the Seahawks know what counts is how far they get in the playoffs. And with Wilson turning 33 this November, there’s more urgency than ever.
Or, as Wilson put it after the loss to the Rams: “We’ve got to make that next step.’’
Figuring out how to achieve that is the most important job Waldron has.
Here’s a quick review of the ugly postseason history since the two Super Bowls appearances.
Lost in divisional round to Carolina 31-24
The year after Seattle’s second Super Bowl appearance is often written off as the Seahawks suffering from a Malcolm Butler-induced hangover. But after a sluggish start, Seattle was on a roll entering the postseason, ranking first in the NFL in defense and fourth in offense and looking like a team no one wanted to play. Seattle first survived sub-zero temps in Minnesota to beat the Vikings 10-9 when Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining for Minnesota. That set up a game at 15-1 Carolina, a contest that figured to be tougher than the week before. And this is where the slow starts/frantic-but-futile finishes trend began. Seattle went interception, punt, interception, punt on its first four drives and fell down 31-0 before crawling to 31-24 with 1:12 left, where the comeback was finally diffused.
Lost in divisional round to Atlanta 36-20
Seattle beat the Lions at home in a wild card game 26-6 to set up a trip to Atlanta. Like the Panthers the year before, the Falcons would advance to the Super Bowl. And the trend of playing good teams on the road can’t be ignored. Seattle played OK early, leading 10-7 early in the second quarter, before the roof fell in, falling down 36-13 en route to a 36-20 loss. The offense wasn’t totally to blame for this one as the Seahawks were outgained 422-309.
Lost in wild card round to Dallas 24-22
Here’s where the playoff frustration amped up. Facing an eminently beatable Dallas team, the Seahawks came out limp offensively, punting after each of their first three drives, gaining a combined 5 yards. In what was Schottenheimer’s first playoff game as offensive coordinator, the perception grew that he hindered Wilson with a run-first offense. Not all the stats supported that — Seattle passed on four of eight first downs in the first half, for instance. But with the running game not working, a three-and-out to open the third quarter that featured runs on the first two plays stuck out like a failed onside kick.
Lost in divisional round to Packers 28-23
After a 17-9 DK Metcalf-fueled win at Philadelphia in the wild card round, the Seahawks traveled to Green Bay and — stop us if you’ve heard this before — fell behind big early. Seattle went punt, punt, field goal, missed field goal on its first four drives as the Packers took a 21-3 lead. Typifying the early offensive sluggishness was the second drive — three straight Marshawn Lynch runs that netted just 9 yards. Seattle maybe couldn’t be faulted for handing Lynch the ball twice needing just 1 yard to get a first down. But it seemed to many Seahawks fans like it was five years too late to force the ball to Lynch.
Lost in wild card round to Rams 30-20
This might be the worst loss on this list. Seattle had done what it needed to get home-field advantage for the game and was facing a Rams team starting a backup QB. It seemed like a good drive or two in the first half might de-horn the Rams quickly. Instead, the Seahawks went punt, punt, punt, field goal, interception on the first five drives to fall behind 13-3. Seattle called passes on seven of the first 11 plays, which is contrary to the idea the Seahawks took the ball out of Wilson’s hands. Mostly, the Seahawks had no answer for defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a Rams front that wrecked Seattle’s.