The great thing about spectator sports is that exactly everyone who enjoys them knows better than the people hired to do them. At the moment around Seattle, all who bought a ticket, a T-shirt or a cable-TV subscription have a plan for Seahawks renewal that’s better than what coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are concocting. Even people who haven’t bought a single Seahawks doo-dad know better than those two.
The two who should be most thrilled about this magnum fount of critical knowledge are Carroll and Schneider. Even if they have a hard time seeing it.
They should be thrilled because so many care so much.
Take a moment to observe the stares, grumbles and laments that populate your workplace, school, bar, bus stop or home. People act as if somebody stole the third holiday of the season — a Seahawks playoff weekend. They want it back, dang it.
Particularly irksome to many was the widespread impression that the Seahawks mortgaged some of the future to win in 2017 while their legendary defense was still capable of carrying the franchise. Instead, not only was there no playoffs, the defense broke down faster than anyone imagined — but not as fast as a running game that was the envy of the league three years ago.
The Seahawks, they have concluded, shattered like safety glass, their 9-7 record artificially taped up by a vapid schedule that included only two noteworthy wins over teams with winning records (Rams, Eagles). And now, two high draft choices are gone from the repair kit.
Tuesday in his seasonal farewell address, Carroll was quick to challenge unprompted the claim that two in-season trades for emergency fixes — a 2018 second-round pick for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and a 2018 third-round pick for left tackle Duane Brown — were largely invalidated by a failure to reach the postseason.
“Did we make drastic measures to get guys outside of our roster during the season because this was our shot?’” Carroll said, asking the question ahead of reporters. “No. We were competing. We had some really clear thoughts about how our roster was going to come together and (top draftee Malik McDowell) wasn’t able to play. So we made a big move.
“When (left tackle George Fant) went down, we got a little bit out of balance. John immediately went after it and we found a guy who we think is an instrumental factor, not just in what he’s already affected in the short-term, but the leadership and the expertise that Duane Brown brings to us. It’s extraordinary, and we need it. That’s going to be a positive for the future.
“Those were moves that weren’t any more drastic than the moves we’re going to make (in 2018). We’re trying to go for it every time we go. There’s not a year where it’s, ‘OK, let’s sit back and wait until next year.’ There’s not a week, there’s not a day, there’s not a moment that we think like that.”
Sounded as if Carroll wanted to get something off his chest, yes?
The problem with “drastic-ness” as a standard of action is that it runs out quickly. Richardson is an unrestricted free agent who, at 26, will be expensive, maybe too expensive, to re-hire.
And other than the presumptive return to good health of Fant, a large man with a small resume of NFL starts (10), there is little likelihood of improving the offensive line immediately with draft choices or free agents.
The line already has plenty of young players in development. And good veterans are more scarce than matches in Smokey the Bear’s jeans pockets. Brown, 32, is a free agent after next season, but the Seahawks are virtually bound to pay a premium to keep him because they are desperate at the position, and he came at a steep price.
A reasonable scenario at the moment for the O-line would keep Brown at left tackle, move Fant to right tackle, and move right tackle Germain Ifedi, the world’s most penalized man who isn’t behind bars, to left guard. Center Justin Britt stays put, and Ethan Pocic, even though he is too tall and not powerful enough yet, is the right guard.
An uptick, yes. But modest.
Where things must get drastic for the Seahawks is on defense. If we can infer from Carroll’s Tuesday remarks that returns by strong safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril are unlikely, and cornerback Richard Sherman won’t be the same after surgeries to each leg, that leaves free safety Earl Thomas, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and defensive end Michael Bennett as the remaining stalwarts from the Super Bowl teams.
Wagner and Wright are, by age, contract, health and ability, the likeliest to remain. That leaves Thomas, 29 in May, and Bennett, 33 in November, as the likeliest veteran stars that the Seahawks can’t afford to keep.
At different times and ways this season, both indicated they know their Seahawks clock is approaching midnight. Thomas went so far as to tell Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to “come get me,” one of the most reckless gestures by a team leader that I can recall in Seattle sports history.
Suggestions that the episode was merely “Earl being Earl” are sops designed to cover for bewilderment, discomfort, betrayal — or all three.
If Thomas can’t get a contract extension from the Seahawks entering his final year, his trade would be a way to recoup this year’s lost picks. As for Bennett, another remarkable warrior, he wore down in the season’s second half, physically and emotionally. He may be ready to champion things bigger than football.
Keep in mind the Seahawks still have in place the tent pole that keeps this circus a going concern in the NFL: Owner Paul Allen, the Carroll/Schneider tandem and quarterback Russell Wilson. More than two dozen NFL teams crave such stability and proven success at the key franchise positions.
I take Carroll at his word that he and Schneider will be back, with the standard proviso that, yes, anything can happen. Almost everyone else in the franchise is in the chorus.
It’s hard to imagine a Seahawks defense in 2018 all at once absent Chancellor, Avril, Thomas and Bennett. Now that is drastic.
Here’s another drastic thing:
Rams 42, Seahawks 7, at home.
Art Thiel is co-founder of sportspressnw.com.