Pete Carroll says Seattle’s “locker room is in great shape” and the Super Bowl XLIX debacle “isn’t an issue to us at all,” but there’s way too much smoke to think that fire has been entirely extinguished.
Warren Moon is among those who think the Hawks will never win another Super Bowl as long as they continue to have so much discord. But the Seahawks — Carroll, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, et al. — say they can win even though Richard Sherman and some other defenders apparently have issues with Carroll and Wilson.
So which perspective is right? Can they overcome the dysfunction to win another title? Or do they need to get rid of Sherman and any other major malcontents to have a shot?
The Seahawks definitely have been on a steady downward slide ever since Carroll’s XLIX screw-up. Sure, they have made the divisional round each of the past two years, but they have been blown out both times (down 31-0 at halftime to Carolina and losing 36-20 to Atlanta).
The main issue, of course, has been poor decisions — personnel and coaching — on the offensive line. But Kam Chancellor helped doom the 2015 club with his stupid holdout, and then key injuries combined with a JV line to stunt the team’s postseason appearance in 2016.
On top of those problems, Sherman and some other defenders apparently still hold grudges against Carroll for his XLIX play call and against Wilson, believe it or not, for being the franchise quarterback.
“With a lot of guys, (XLIX) just kind of rubbed them the wrong way, and they just haven’t gotten over it,” the well-connected Moon said recently. “This team will not be able to move on and really do what they want to do, which is win another Super Bowl, unless they can somehow put that behind them. There are certain guys on the team that just haven’t been able to do that; and, until they are able to do that, they are … going to probably come up short of their (Super Bowl) goals.
“It can become something that separates your football team,” Moon said, “and you don’t need that when you’re trying to go against some of the best football teams in the league and trying to unseat them as either NFC champions or Super Bowl champions. You definitely have to make sure everybody’s minds are clear and focused on what the goal is at hand, and you have to leave everything that has happened in the past.”
Sherman in particular has not been able to do that. His sideline outburst toward Darrell Bevell last year was proof. This is where Carroll’s willingness to let the inmates run the asylum becomes a problem. Guys like Sherman feel they have more power than they really do. And they feel they are more important than a franchise QB.
News flash: If a team has a franchise QB like Wilson, no player is more significant. And every franchise QB will be treated with more deference than any other player. It’s the natural way of things. Anyone who has a problem with it is a fool. And anyone who doesn’t realize that most of the Seattle offense’s failures the past four years have been due to the woeful offensive line — not to the quarterback — is an even bigger fool.
Sherman Smith, Seattle’s former RB coach, knows these players very well. And he knows some of them resent Wilson, especially after the interception in XLIX. Pretty crazy, considering the Hawks never would have won a Super Bowl — or gotten back — without Wilson. Some defenders apparently don’t get that.
Earlier this offseason, Baldwin admitted that there was an anti-Wilson faction in 2014 (back when Percy Harvin was the team’s most rotten apple). Baldwin, Carroll and Wilson do not disagree that their recent playoff seasons have come despite some locker room conflict.
Carroll: “That doesn’t mean everybody’s on the same page exactly right all the time. I’m not either. We’ve got to work at it; it’s a challenge.”
Baldwin: “We celebrate individuality in our locker room, and, yeah, there’s some consequences that come with that.”
Wilson: “I wouldn’t say (we’re) divided. I don’t know that. From my perspective, I believe we’re a team that’s been in the playoffs, we’re a team that keeps winning. I don’t think teams do that if they’re truly divided.”
But there is no question there is a schism in this team. Moon and Smith backed up the ESPN story detailing the offense-defense split, and Gee Scott of 710 ESPN added another tidbit: Michael Bennett ripped a “high-profile” teammate for criticizing the gutsy Wilson last year.
This rift likely will remain for as long as Sherman is on the team, so the question is: Can the Hawks overcome it in 2017?
Will their offensive line become average enough for them to claim home field? Will the running game keep the pressure off Wilson? Will the defense return to the tight-knit crew it was in 2012-14? Will their top players stay mostly healthy? Will Sherman and any other malcontents keep their mouths shut?
Or will the Hawks peter out in the playoffs again — forcing a minor roster purge in 2018?