Opinion: End of an era? Questions mount for Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson amid Seahawks' struggles

Opinion: End of an era? Questions mount for Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson amid Seahawks' struggles

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Pete Carroll might be the last NFL coach you’d expect to quit on a news conference when times are tough. After all, the Seahawks coach has pretty much always been the picture of energy and optimism.

Through losing streaks, gut-wrenching defeats, bad officiating calls and even a boneheaded decision that lost a Super Bowl, you could always count on Carroll to gravitate to the bright side.

That’s why it was so stunning when Carroll bolted on the media last Sunday after his team was drubbed by the Cardinals, bemoaning the swirl reflected with five losses in the past six games.

It made me wonder: Is Carroll approaching the end of the line? Does the NFL’s oldest coach, for all of his youthful vigor, still have the stomach for trying to build Seattle into a legitimate contender again? Is this just a temporary, mid-life crisis thing that he’ll snap out of?

I’m guessing that Carroll, 70, under contract through 2025, still wants to deal with the NFL pressure cooker, determined to see this challenge through.

I’m not convinced, though, that Carroll’s star quarterback, Russell Wilson, will be equally committed for what could be a long haul to another potential championship run.

Regardless, the reality check is here for the Seahawks and it forecasts stiff challenges ahead.

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Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll reacts to a play against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field.

Hey, there’s plenty of football left this season. Conceivably, the Seahawks (3-7), playing at Washington on Monday night, can catch fire and run the table that gets them into the anything-can-happen playoffs. Realistically, that’s not going to happen. After winning the NFC West in 2020 (12-4), they now bring up the rear in one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions, trying to make do with a sputtering, imbalanced offense that lives and dies with the magic that Wilson can or cannot make.

Remember when defense was the Seahawks’ calling card? Ah, here’s to the memory of the Legion of Boom. As it stands now, Seattle’s D ranks last in the NFL for yards allowed at 401.8 per game.

Seattle, the last-placed defense?

It seems that the Seahawks are trying to run the same types of schemes they used nearly a decade ago, only without a Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor patrolling the back end. Sure, Jamal Adams is one of the NFL’s premier safeties. But all across the board, on offense and defense, the Seahawks lack the depth that used to be a hallmark.

And it’s hardly a matter of simply re-stocking through the draft. For all of the success the Seahawks had in landing mid- and late-round picks to stock their Super Bowl teams during the early 2010s, the record of GM John Schneider and Co. has been so spotty in recent years when it comes to the premium picks.

Last year’s first-round pick, linebacker Jordyn Brooks, looks like a hit. And DK Metcalf, the second-round choice in 2019, has emerged as a star. But the two first-round picks from 2018 and 2019 who you’d expect to be key cogs, running back Rashaad Penny and defensive end L.J. Collier, are hardly that. Penny has been derailed by injuries; Collier has been a healthy scratch for just about every game.

And the offensive line that has been such a focus of attention (read: mess) in recent years still needs an upgrade. Seattle has allowed 33 sacks this season, tied for fourth most in the league – including eight sacks given up by left tackle Duane Brown, having a tough time as the anchor.

Why should Wilson want to keep coming back to this?

The contract paying Wilson an average of $35 million runs through 2023. But after the drama of last offseason – when speculation persisted that the quarterback wanted out – is poised to come back in the coming months. Only with more intensity.

Wilson, turning 33 on Monday, is arguably still the league’s most aggressive downfield passer. His next pass or the one after could be another rainbow to Metcalf or Tyler Lockett, although the hit rate hasn’t been as proficient in the two games since Wilson returned from a three-game injury absence with a fractured finger.

Still, balance is needed to complement that home-run ball. And not just offensive balance. Wilson has so often taken over games at crunch time and pulled out Ws. Just keep it close and let him find a way, which is one way of living in a league with such tight margins of victory from week to week.

Yet like any elite quarterback, Wilson needs a supporting cast…which used to be the deal.

The challenges for the Seahawks are not going away soon. There are cracks in the foundation.

And chances are it will get worse before it gets better. The Seahawks appear destined to finish with their first losing season since 2011, which will make for a very long offseason fueled by big changes.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seattle Seahawks: Questions mount or Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson

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