Two weeks ago, Seattle knocked off the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles, and it sure looked like the Seahawks were getting ready to spread their wings for another long postseason flight.
Even a 30-24 loss in Jacksonville last week did nothing to shake the faith — the Seahawks basically beat themselves thanks to Russell Wilson’s overly aggressive interceptions and a few other mistakes.
There was plenty of reason to think they could beat the Rams at home and take control of the NFC West. And even if they had lost by just a touchdown, it wouldn’t have been unexpected or created a huge stir beyond the uphill battle to make the playoffs.
But a 42-7 demolition has raised a ton of questions about the future of these Seahawks.
Plenty of people think this humiliation signals the official end of an era — that the Hawks will go out with an 8-8 whimper this season and then need to start fresh in 2018, replacing top assistants and rebuilding almost from scratch.
That all seems like a lot of overreaction and, in the case of those wanting to fire Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell, wishful thinking.
Michael Silver of NFL Media is among those ringing the alarm bells. He predicts a massive overhaul of the defense, with Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas all potentially leaving via retirement, release or trade. But he doesn’t know any more than any of us do about those guys, and he also apparently hasn’t watched how John Schneider treats star players.
Avril and Chancellor, both dealing with serious nerve issues, will call their shots. Avril seems likely to retire. Chancellor is more of a question, although signs seem to point that direction as well. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him stay with Seattle as a coach.
Bennett just signed an extension a year ago and has toughed out this season with a plantar fascia injury. It’s hard to see the Seahawks letting the 32-year-old go next year, especially with no ready replacement.
Sherman and Thomas also figure to be back. Coming off a torn Achilles, Sherman won’t have a trade market, and it would be very surprising if Schneider cut him. The All-Pro corner likely will play out the final year of his contract with Seattle and then move on in 2019.
Thomas is still one of their top two defenders and is likely to get an extension worth around $12 million a year. Wright and Frank Clark also will probably get new deals.
The 2019 defensive core would include Thomas, Wright, Clark, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones and Shaq Griffin. Sheldon Richardson could be part of that crew, on the off chance Schneider can re-sign him for a reasonable price next offseason. DeShawn Shead also might end up part of that group.
Bottom line: They still have a number of very good players on defense — and Schneider presumably will add to them via the next couple of drafts.
It will be up to Carroll and his coaches to build up the same style of dominant unit he created in 2010-12 for the first Super Bowl window.
The offense is the same mess as always, of course. Wilson, Justin Britt, Duane Brown and Doug Baldwin are the only players worth paying on that side (and are all being paid). Cable and Bevell have proven they can’t consistently help Wilson succeed, but Carroll won’t dump his top assistants. So expect more of the same here as long as Carroll is coach.
Silver also posited the idea that the 66-year-old Carroll might bail, afraid to get into a rebuild. That’s ridiculous, of course. Carroll’s all about competing, so he’ll stick around at least through the end of his contract in 2019 — and possibly beyond, assuming he has the Seahawks back on track.
If Carroll can’t get this team back to where it was in 2013, though, there will be no reason to give him another contract.
For now, Carroll needs to show he can get his team to rebound from its most embarrassing game in the Wilson era and perform up to expectations the next two weeks: Reach 10 wins and hope they get some losses from Atlanta, Carolina and/or Detroit.