Pete Carroll lost his team in 2015 and finally decided to take it back this year. Will that be enough to get the Hawks back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the debacle that cost Carroll control of his club?
Yeah, yeah, the Seahawks made the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, at one point each season looking capable of winning it all. But they admittedly weren’t really motivated to do it.
Cliff Avril was the latest to corroborate that, saying Carroll’s decision to throw at the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX resulted in a lot of players tuning him out over the ensuing seasons. Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Warren Moon and former RBs coach Sherman Smith all have said the XLIX loss affected the team in 2015 and 2016, and malcontents Bennett and Sherman admitted they had stopped listening to the coach long before they were both let go this year.
Avril’s recent comments on NFL Network further confirm Carroll lost a lot of loyalty with that Super gaffe. If the Hawks had beaten the Patriots, Avril said, “I think the team would’ve bought in more into what coach Carroll was saying instead of going the opposite way. … I think guys started questioning him a little bit more instead of following his lead if we would have won the Super Bowl.”
Avril took it a step further, saying he thinks the Seahawks would have won a third Super Bowl if they had finished off XLIX correctly, because the players would not have stopped believing in Carroll.
Whether Avril is right about the dynasty, we’ll never know. But we do know the Seahawks went on a slow decline over the ensuing three years, a slide that was caused in no small part by a lack of team chemistry — pointed out variously by Bennett, Thomas, Avril, Moon, Smith and Kam Chancellor, among others.
The Hawks overcame the attitude issues, some poor coaching choices (e.g., Drew Nowak, Cary Williams) and injuries to make the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but they had lost their edge amid Chancellor’s holdout, Bennett’s griping, Sherman’s rants and a generally distracted roster. They made it to the divisional round on talent and experience in both seasons, but they were easily ousted both times.
After the 2016 season ended in a blowout loss in Atlanta, Chancellor said, “We didn’t stay together from an attitude standpoint” — something that was true throughout the season.
A month later, after he was dismissed, a candid Smith said, “The team was not as hungry as we were four years ago.”
In June 2017, Moon, the well-connected analyst, said the Super Bowl loss from two seasons previous was still affecting the team: “With a lot of guys, (XLIX) just kind of rubbed them the wrong way, and they just haven’t gotten over it. 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.”
After Seattle’s playoff run ended with a bevy of big injuries last season, Carroll decided it was finally time to remove the last non-believers — so he unceremoniously dumped Sherman and Bennett. It was poor roster management in both cases, but Carroll obviously had finally grown tired of their negative vibes and wanted to reclaim full control of his team.
Carroll knew Sherman had to go in 2016, when the corner was ripping coaches in public, but John Schneider was stubborn about getting big value for him. Instead of taking a second-round pick in 2017, they ended up cutting Sherman for nothing in return a year later.
They also screwed up with Bennett, paying him in December 2016 and then deciding to trade him a little over a year later — after Bennett apparently became overly distracting with his off-field activities and incidents.
With Bennett, Sherman and Avril (who was never a distraction) gone and Chancellor likely done, the Seahawks have just a handful of core guys left from the XLIX team: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Justin Britt, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Thomas (and Byron Maxwell is back).
Other than perhaps Thomas (still absent from OTAs), those guys seem to be all in with Carroll 2.0, so the coach once again owns the message. He even changed his top assistants to streamline it and hold players more accountable as he gets ready for one more championship window with the Seahawks.
He made the playoffs with a team that had tuned him out in 2015 and 2016, so just imagine what he might do with a roster that is actually listening again.
You can tell he’s excited about it, as he said after OTAs on Thursday: “We’re working hard, coaches are busting their tails, everybody’s working at it, and it just feels really good. There’s some newness from the staff, there’s some newness in the things that we’re working on. Players are taking to the challenge of learning and adapting to stuff, coaches are adapting to players. There’s a lot going on, but it’s been very energetic, very upbeat — not unlike what it should feel like in our program, but maybe even more so than ever, or at least, in the last few years. It’s really exciting and I’m having fun with it. I’m enjoying the heck out of it.”