If the 2021 Seahawks season was a bit irregular in featuring the first losing record in a decade, the offseason began with business appearing as usual as ever.
While Seattle’s 7-10 record and first playoff-less season since 2017 has led to lots of speculation about the possibility of major change, coach Pete Carroll made clear again when he spoke to the media Monday afternoon that he expects to be back for his 13th season with the team in 2022.
Carroll said after Sunday’s 38-30 win over Arizona that “I’m in great shape” in terms of his future.
Asked Monday if he feels that also applies to general manager John Schneider, Carroll laughed and said, “We feel both like we’re in great shape.”
Carroll said he has yet to have his usual end-of-season meeting with team chair Jody Allen.
But all indications point to that meeting yielding no surprises.
Carroll said he wouldn’t get too specific about what he will talk about with Allen but characterized it as just the beginning of sifting through what happened in 2021 and where to go in 2022.
“We’re meeting this week, but it’s gonna take us months to get through all the information,’’ Carroll said. “But we’ll give the best interpretation we can at this early time.’’
Carroll also declined to answer whether there could be changes to any of his assistant coaches, specifically offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., saying, “Yeah, I’m not addressing any of that stuff.”
Last week, Carroll seemed to imply he was happy with the work of Waldron in his first year as the offensive coordinator.
Carroll also indicated that quarterback Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere.
During his weekly radio show on ESPN 710 Seattle on Monday morning, Carroll was asked whether he expected Wilson to be the QB in 2022. “Yeah, he’s our quarterback,” Carroll said. “Of course. I do think that. Yeah, I do think that. And he’s on our team.”
During his session with media later, Carroll raved about the way Wilson persevered through his finger injury and led Seattle to 89 points in its final two games.
“I just thought he was at his best the last few weeks,” Carroll said of Wilson. “… Really excited for the finish.”
In general, Carroll gave off a mostly optimistic vibe about the state of the team despite a rare January being spent at home for the playoffs.
Sunday’s win was Seattle’s fourth in its last six games, two against NFC West rivals.
Carroll said the end-of-season wins reminded him of where the Seahawks were in the early days of his tenure when Seattle went 7-9 in both 2010 and 2011 before emerging into a Super Bowl winner two years later.
Carroll said that when he talked to his players Monday he told them: “We were able to see the team that we can become. And over the course of this year, we didn’t get other things done, but we did see that.
“And I told them today like I remember telling Kam (Chancellor) and Sherm (Richard Sherman) and those guys when they were in here years ago that in this room right now is the nucleus of a championship team that we’ll add to and we’ll bring in and support. But the guys in this room are the guys that are gonna make this happen.
“And that’s what it feels like, and we should be excited about it. I know I am. I’m excited about the chances of coming back and playing cleaner, sharper, more physical football than we did this year more consistently, and attending to the issues that we had, we should clean those things up. We should be really good. We have a very challenging division, and we’re gonna have to be really good. Like I’ve said before, if you make it through this division, you should have a chance to win the whole thing and so that’s what we’re aiming at.”
And the way the team came together at the end of the season had Carroll saying he hopes the Seahawks can mostly stay together in 2022.
“We want to make sure that all of the guys that are with us, that we get our team back together,” Carroll said. “… We want to make sure that we are able to reconnect with our guys and getting back on the roster and so we can build with continuity — that’s an important part.”
But the Seahawks will have some challenges to get that done.
Seattle has 15 players who can become unrestricted free agents in March, including nine who could be viewed as full-time starters this season, led by safety Quandre Diggs, left tackle Duane Brown and running back Rashaad Penny.
It was Penny who spurred the late-season resurgence by rushing for 100 or more yards four times in the last five games, including a career-high 190 against Arizona.
Thanks to Penny averaging 6.3 yards per carry, the Seahawks finished third in the NFL in yards per carry as a team with an average of 5.0. Seattle also finished strong in rushing defense, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry.
What Carroll said the Seahawks need more of in 2022 is a pass rush — Seattle finished with 33 sacks, 13 coming in the last four games with a season-high five against Arizona.
But Seattle had an 11-game stretch during the middle of the season in which it had just 14 sacks, and never more than two in a game.
“That’s one of the focal points right now,” Carroll said of improving the pass rush.
Carroll also said he wants to continue to add competition, especially in the skill positions.
“I really want to make sure that we’re able to continue to push our guys with people that are added to the program,” Carroll said. “Push our receivers, push our running backs and make those positions continue to be really competitive across the board.”