Seahawks coach Pete Carroll must right this off-course season and reverse the curse that has included a harrowing loss in Super Bowl and a high-profile holdout or risk this team falling apart.
Two division titles, two conference championships, and a Super Bowl crown to boot.
A reconstruction of a football team that has become Seattle’s premier source of pride.
Pete Carroll helped transform the Seahawks into one of the most ferocious, fascinating NFL teams of the new millennium.
But now? Now is where he earns his money.
SEAHAWKS vs. PANTHERS »
The 10 games remaining on the Seahawks’ schedule signify Carroll’s greatest coaching challenge since he came to the Northwest. Not only is his team 2-4, it has blown a fourth-quarter lead in every one of its defeats.
Emotionally draining losses such as these have the tendency to send even the most talented teams into a midseason hibernation. So now it’s on Carroll to wake the Hawks up — or it won’t be long till we’re holding their wake.
“We’re going to do everything we can to hang together,” Carroll said after Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Panthers. “We’re a team that has tremendous expectations.”
You can’t ignore the circumstances the Seahawks faced coming into the year. The “Super Bowl Hangover,” in which teams that lose the big game fade from title contention the next year, is a very real thing — but the way Seattle lost was akin to taking Cuervo shots every 10 minutes till 4 a.m. It doesn’t matter how skilled your players are or how seasoned your veterans — clearing that mental hurdle takes some LeBron-like bounce.
You also can’t ignore some of the blows and distractions that have taken place since. Kam Chancellor held out for two games. Marshawn Lynch sat out for two games.
Dion Bailey, the safety who has since been cut, fell down on the tying touchdown in St. Louis. And Bengals kicker Mike Nugent banked in the winning field goal off the goalpost in Cincinnati.
According to Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, Chancellor said that the season to this point has almost felt like a curse. Aside from Kam stripping the ball from Calvin Johnson in Seattle’s win over the Lions, you can’t say the Hawks have been on great terms with Lady Luck.
But you also can’t say the Hawks have performed up to their capabilities so far this year. That falls on Carroll
Now it’s time for him to fix it.
It’s time for Carroll to fix what is looking more and more to be a concrete psychological hitch. Several players Sunday mentioned how finishing used to be a defining characteristic of this football team, but after the past two Sundays, it almost seems as if Seattle has the fourth-quarter yips.
The offense becomes stagnant. The defense breaks down. The Seahawks have been giving opponents stories for the grandchildren since Week 1.
When you have big personalities — and Seattle may have the biggest in the NFL — locker rooms can become real tense real soon when things start to unravel. Carroll is supposedly a master at ego management. Time to apply that mastery now.
It’s also time for Carroll to fix some physical hitches. After a solid effort against Cincinnati, the Seahawks’ offensive line seemed to revert to its subpar self vs. Carolina. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked four times — bringing his total to a league-leading 26.
The run game was also insufficient — with Lynch carrying the ball 17 times for 54 yards. On the season, Beast Mode has gained just 3.3 yards per carry. Something is off there, and it can’t stay that way.
There are a host of other areas you can point to that Seattle needs to address — just as you can’t point to a number of areas in which progress has been made. Tight end Jimmy Graham had a breakout game Sunday. His 140 receiving yards were a huge plus.
But they weren’t enough.
Something is off with the Seahawks, and it’s on the head coach to make it right.
Carroll is facing his toughest task yet — but it could end up as his finest hour.