It was a season the Seahawks approached with the highest ambition and the most aggressive of actions to fulfill it.
They had their sights on the Super Bowl, dealt away vital pieces of their future to attain it and continued to tinker throughout the season with that one paramount goal in mind.
And that’s why, by that standard, their 2020 season was an abject failure.
The Seahawks assured that harsh critique on a somber Saturday afternoon at Lumen Field that will stand as one of the low points in franchise history. Completely unable to stand up to a team marred at the most crucial position, the Seahawks fell 30-20 to the Rams, and now slink into the offseason weighted down by doubts, recriminations and oh so many questions.
It’s all on the table now, from the composition of the roster to the offensive philosophy flowing down from coach Pete Carroll and through coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. And, for the first time in a decade, the list of concerns includes the quarterback. After being on a steady ascension throughout his sainted career, when Seattle’s one sure thing it could always count on was him, Russell Wilson struggled uncharacteristically in the second half of the season and reached a shocking nadir Saturday.
The interception Wilson threw in the second quarter, resulting in a 42-yard touchdown return by Darious Williams, set the dire outcome on what eventually became an inevitable path. And Wilson, whose ability to lead the Seahawks out of seemingly insurmountable adversity became his calling card, remained flat, out of sync and out of miracles until it was too late.
And so now the Seahawks must come to grips with the fact that all the accomplishments of the season — and the list is considerable — were to no avail, and ultimately as empty as the stands all season.
Not the 12 wins, not the division title. The Seahawks deserve obvious and lasting praise for how they, more than any other NFL team, found a way to stave off the ravages of COVID-19. But to the extent it advanced their chances of a sustained playoff run, that, too, came up empty.
“I told these guys, I have no place in my brain for this outcome,” Carroll said. “We were planning on winning and moving on and getting going and playing really good football and doing the stuff we need to do to win.”
Now Carroll will have to wrap his brain around the reality — that despite mortgaging the future by sending two first-round draft picks to the Jets for Jamal Adams, then beefing up the defense further with the midseason acquisition of Carlos Dunlap, they still ended up with a hauntingly familiar early playoff ouster.
Perhaps “Super Bowl or bust” is an unrealistic expectation to put on a season. But “First-round stinker and go home” is unacceptable by any standard. And Seattle’s standard was far closer to, if not exactly, the former.
“To me it’s a failure,” Adams said of the season. “I mean, that’s our goal. It’s not about individual goals. It’s not about anything else. It’s about getting to the Super Bowl and winning it.
“… We did win a division, but at the end of the day we knew what our mission was, and we fell short. So to me that is a failed season.”
Now the questions will flood forth. Such as why couldn’t the Seahawks adjust once defenses figured out a way to take away their big-play attack? And why did Wilson look out of rhythm so often in the second half? And was it worth it to give up so much to attain Adams — who was exemplary much of the season — considering the end result was even worse than last season’s? Which brings to mind another burning question: Do the Seahawks open their wallets and give Adams a contract extension?
Last season the Seahawks at least won a game before getting knocked out by Green Bay. The year before, they lost in the first round to Dallas. In 2017, they didn’t make the playoffs. In 2016 they lost in the second round to Atlanta. In 2015 they lost in the second round to Carolina. They made it to the Super Bowl in 2014, only to have the ghastliest ending in football history against the Patriots.
That’s a disturbing litany of playoff terrors and tribulations since winning it all in 2013. That’s not to minimize the achievement of making it to the postseason so consistently, but a playoff participation trophy lost its luster long ago for this organization.
Now the Seahawks will have to come to grips with how they seem plagued year after year by the same issues in crunch time: slow starts on offense, third-down inefficiency, porous protection for Wilson and dubious clock management.
All those previous losses occurred on the road. The Seahawks feel invincible when they’re home during the playoffs, and have the record to back it up. This year was an aberration, of course, in that they couldn’t feed off the energy of nonexistent fans, which Carroll lamented after the game. But facing a Rams team led by a rookie quarterback in his second NFL game — and then quickly replaced by Jared Goff nursing a broken thumb — they were in a favorable position.
Or so it seemed. But their dreams of a Super Bowl run were thwarted, leaving a shellshocked Carroll to say, “This football season was supposed to keep going for us.”
Instead, it screeched to a shocking and ignominious halt.
“As we run through the playoffs and watch everybody else still be playing, it makes you sick to your stomach,” Carroll said. “Seriously. It feels almost like life ends, in a sense, for this season, and it’s very difficult to deal with.”
Carroll said eventually they’ll be able to appreciate the achievements of this season, and the camaraderie that was built through the most adverse conditions the league has faced.
But that time was most certainly not Saturday, when Carroll said, with a sigh, “I feel like crap. … Time will heal, but it’s unfortunate, because these years are hard to come by. It’s hard to get to 12 wins, and it’s hard to get yourself situated with a playoff game at home. We’ve won a lot of playoff games at home. It’s tough to give one away.”
What the Seahawks gave away Saturday was a full season of hopes, dreams and the highest of aspirations. They went all in, in full-blown but failed pursuit of an outcome that never came.