I’m worried about Pete Carroll.
OK, I’m not really worried about him as much as I’m concerned for him. On Sunday, as his Seahawks were trudging through one of the most anemic offensive performances we’ve seen, a rare scene kept playing out on the sidelines:
Carroll, normally exultant and gratified at just being the head coach, and getting to be a part of things, was so distressed through parts of the game, that it looks as if he’s reached a level of frustration normally reserved for a tight, 4th-quarter NFC Championship game.
He was screaming. He was throwing headsets. He was mowing his own players over on the sidelines.
Part of Carroll’s success – and a big part of his charm – is his ability to compartmentalize aspects of the game that other coaches struggle with. He’s the antithesis of the Belicheckian cloud that hovers over the NFL, threatening to kill off any semblance of joy that may seep out. Carroll knows it’s a game; he allows his players to have fun; he dances, and sings, and looks as if (gasp) he actually enjoys what he is doing.
It made him a star at USC; players flocked to the campus to be involved with the party he was throwing.
It allowed him to integrate himself in Seattle, taking youngsters and veterans alike and showing them the part of the game they enjoyed when they were kids. The part of the game that came organically to them. When the game was just that…a game. He still coached, sure. He got after guys when he saw fit. But he never let the pressures override his ability to crack a smile. He could laugh off any defeat, be it a preseason game or the Super Bowl.
But just two games in, it seems as if the Carroll we’ve come to know and love - just like the rest of Seattle offense - is absent.
Seattle has scored 15 points. Their once fluid attack – give it to Marshawn Lynch a bunch of times, with a sprinkling of passes for good measure – has gone by the wayside. And there are a lot of things to blame for it.
The offensive line (and stop me if you’ve read this before) is giving Russell Wilson no time.
Wilson, because of the ankle injury in the season opener, has been stripped of his ability to improvise (a weapon that would be handy with his line). The running game has been virtually non-existent.
The most frustrating part for Carroll has to be that he finally has a group of skill players to boast about. With Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, he’s flush with talent that he hasn’t had since Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Co. were running all over the Pac-10.
But right now, Seattle can’t do a thing about it; they’re handcuffed by a lack of ability to run anything resembling an NFL-caliber offense.
Now, it must be noted the Seahawks’ first opponents – Miami and Los Angeles – fielded two of the better defensive lines in the NFL, so struggles were inevitable, but, despite some improvements from my vantage point, things still are not grading out.
From Pro Football Focus:
“The Seahawks’ offensive line couldn’t block the Rams’ defensive line; Mark Glowinski (45.5 grade) and J’Marcus Webb (32.6 grade) had trouble giving injured quarterback Russell Wilson a clean pocket. Glowinski allowed 5 pressures, 3 from the outside, and Webb surrendered 3. Bradley Sowell, who replaced Webb, allowed 5 pressures, 4 from the outside.”
For Carroll and his staff, there’s no end in sight. Offensive lines in the NFL don’t mature overnight; there are not incremental jumps in performance from week-to-week. For the most part, aside from some cohesion that is built, guys are who they are.
Seattle has neglected to address their line the past few offseasons, and it’s coming back to haunt them.
Oh, and on Monday, Carroll’s week took another hit, as Seattle was dinged again (as they were in 2014) for excessive contact in offseason OTAs. It’s small, but it adds to the growing uncertainty surrounding this team.
Two games do not a season make, and Seattle has the talent at every other position to make a Super Bowl run. But until the O-line figures it out, and until Wilson’s ankle heals, I’m afraid the Pete Carroll we’ve become accustomed to – the jovial man living each day to the fullest – is going to be gone.
And if he’s not careful, the goodwill he’s built, and the charm he’s instilled in people, will be lost. What’s left will be a sullen, ashen man, slogging his way through his 18-hour work day.
You know… a normal NFL coach.