There are few constants in the NFL, but over the past decade, the Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll era Seattle Seahawks have been a winning machine, near immovable object atop the NFC West and a thorn in the 49ers' side.
From 2012-2020, the Wilson-Carroll Seahawks won 107 games, including nine playoff games, appeared in two Super Bowls, and won one. Those 107 victories are second only to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick over the same time frame (119 wins, four Super Bowl appearances, three titles).
But there are cracks in the Seahawks' foundation, and the 49ers have a chance Sunday to deal what could be the final blow and bring the whole thing tumbling down, sending their rivals to confront what will be a lengthy and painful rebuild.
At 3-8 after Monday night's loss to the Washington Football Team, the Seahawks' season is, barring six straight wins to end the year, over. Wilson, who has papered over many of the team's issues in recent seasons, returned too early from a broken finger and has been unable to pull them out of a tailspin that has them in the NFC West cellar with no apparent way out.
The offense has stagnated, the defense is getting gashed, the drat cupboard is empty, and Carroll, 70, appears out of solutions.
“I’m just not any good at [losing]. I’m just not prepared for this,” Carroll said after the Week 11 loss to the Colt McCoy-led Arizona Cardinals. “I’m struggling to do a good job of coaching when you get your butt kicked week in and week out. It’s new territory, and I’m competing in every way I can think of, but it’s just unfamiliar."
Carroll and general manager John Schnieder built the Seahawks juggernaut through the draft, hitting home runs in three consecutive drafts from 2010-2012 that saw them land the staples of the Legion of Boom defense and, of course, Wilson.
But the Seahawks have whiffed in recent drafts, and, as such, they lack the depth and talent to compete in the hardest division in football without Wilson playing at an elite level.
Only seven of the Seahawks' past 72 draft picks are still on the team and play a significant role. They have only had four first-round picks since 2013 and missed on all of them. Seattle doesn't own the rights to its 2022 first-round pick, currently projected to be in the top five, as the Seahawks traded their 2021 and 2022 first-round picks to the New York Jets for safety Jamal Adams in a move that has been a complete disaster.
Carroll's run-first offensive approach has been a big issue in recent seasons as the Seahawks have been unable to move the ball on the ground and therefore have asked Wilson to throw on a cape and rescue them on an almost weekly basis. Throw in the Seahawks' much-discussed offensive line issues, and you have a recipe for a frustratingly stagnant offense with an elite quarterback at the helm.
That, naturally, brings us to Wilson, who kind of, sort of asked for a trade last offseason when his agent leaked the teams Wilson would want to be traded to if the Seahawks wanted to trade the quarterback while making sure it was noted Wilson was not asking for a trade.
But he might not be so polite this time around.
At 3-8 and with no playoff dreams and no way to quickly fix a roster that deteriorated around Wilson, the Seahawks might enter the offseason forced to confront the idea that the best way to start a rebuild is by trading Wilson for the necessary draft capital and likely saying goodbye to Carroll.
Of course, the Seahawks are a proud organization that has become accustomed to winning and being a factor in the Super Bowl conversation. Hitting the detonator on a core that only has won one Super Bowl when the expectations were much higher will not be an easy decision. It'll be much easier for the Seahawks to shrug off the 2021 season as a one-off if they can finish the year strong and head into the offseason with the hope that the $54 million in projected cap space can help them patch up some roster holes and return to relevance with a healthy Wilson.
That's doable if they finish at 7-10 or 8-9. Maybe 6-11. But it won't be easy to trick themselves into a 4-13 or 5-12 team having a quick fix.
So, with their foundation crumbling around them and a grim reality staring them in the face, the Seahawks enter Week 13 needing a win in the worst way possible just to believe the end isn't here.
This presents the 49ers with a golden opportunity Sunday to push a Seahawks team clinging to the remnants of past glory right over the edge, and, perhaps, usher longtime nemeses, Carroll and Wilson, out of the NFC West at the same time.
The Seahawks are a wounded animal desperately looking for shelter to heal up and stave off the long night. Winners of three of their last four, the red-hot 49ers will arrive in Seattle with a chance to deliver the death blow in a decade-long rivalry and send the Seahawks into the NFL abyss with a 60-minute statement in the Emerald City.