As the Seattle Seahawks seemingly sleepwalk through this season, with little sign of their previous hunger to win and killer instinct, it is fair to wonder whether the players have tuned out Pete Carroll and whether he can regain their ear before the season really does spin out of control.
Back-to-back Super Bowls, contract concerns and Carroll’s game-losing call in the last title game all could be culprits in the Seahawks’ late meltdowns that have resulted in a 2-4 record.
Carroll surely lost some players with his ill-fated decision to throw the ball rather than run it with Super Bowl XLIX on the line, and it is clear he has not gained back the confidence of all of them.
On top of that, he has a new defensive coordinator and the Legion of Boom has not been itself.
Kris Richard, the DC, took the blame for the communication breakdown that resulted in Carolina tight end Greg Olsen being wide open to win the game Sunday.
“I stand up and I absolutely accept full responsibility for what happened at the end,” Richard said. “It will not continue. We must get better and we are examining each and every single possible thing we can do to fix it, again, starting with me.”
On the field, though, it starts with the Legion. And, as Earl Thomas said, “We’re not being ourselves. I think we’re distracted.”
Kam Chancellor certainly has been. He held out until the third week of the season, seeking more money. Thomas also missed most of training camp as he recovered from a shoulder injury. And Richard Sherman has mellowed noticeably this year.
The communication among the three key figures of Seattle’s defense clearly has been lacking. The past two weeks they have been seen having very animated discussions after blown coverages on touchdowns.
After they let Olsen and Carolina beat them on Sunday, Thomas hinted that all was not well, saying, “I want to say a lot of things, but I can’t.”
Defensive end Cliff Avril agreed with Thomas, telling The Seattle Times, “Maybe some guys were distracted. Two years of going to the Super Bowl, I could see that being a distraction, assuming it’s going to happen again. And that’s a lot of football being played. It’s possible guys could be distracted. But, hey, we’re 2-4 right now; and, if you’re not worried about that, we’ve got an issue.”
Carroll said success requires addressing his team differently, a lesson he learned from UCLA coach John Wooden.
“Coach Wooden told me one time that every year the players change. You don’t change your philosophy, you don’t change your approach, because the players adapt as they go through their years and things fit together. You always stay with what you believe in.
“Times change. Guys grow up. They mature. They get paid. They’re heading into their contract years. There’s a lot of factors that enter into guys’ makeup, and we have to be adaptable and fix and help and communicate and counsel all the way through all of that. It’s one of the really exciting challenges in coaching.
“I’m always on that topic. I try to understand how our guys are developing, where they’re going, what’s important to them, what’s changed and what has stayed the same so that we can communicate really well and help them move where they’ve got to go.”
He said it takes “everything I’ve got” to deliver the message in ways the players will respond to. “You call in everything you’ve ever known, said, done, seen to make the right choices and decisions to fit it to the people and to their needs and their makeup as well.”
He said the unexpected 2-4 start is “a legitimate challenge. … I see every day like that, though. Every day is a challenge to be right and to be on it, to help guys do better and do what they’re capable of doing. This kind of falls in line with that mentality. This is adversity; this is what this is.”
If Carroll had lost his team, it appears he might be getting it back — just as the Seahawks hit the road on a short week for a game in San Francisco, followed by a trip to Dallas in Week 8.
Chancellor, Thomas and Sherman apparently spent an hour after the Carolina game at their lockers discussing the defense’s failure and how to fix it.
“They care so much and they’re so connected that they’re trying to put their heads together too because they want to help also,” Carroll said. “They want to do right, and they want to get better. They’re strong about it. They admit when they make their mistakes. They admit when they could have helped somebody out. And that is just an illustration of their willingness to keep competing and to keep battling to get it right.
“They’re really disappointed, and they know we’re better than what’s shown the last couple of weeks and we need to get going. These guys are very clear about being determined to get that done, and so that’s how we’re going about it.”