By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The end result of the 2011 season was disappointing for Pete Carroll. The direction the Seahawks are heading, however, has him excited about the future.
“We finished the season with expectations that weren’t met,” said Carroll, whose team finished 7-9 for the second straight year. “We wanted to win more games. … But the rest of the story to me is so positive and so encouraging that we look forward to this offseason with tremendous hopes of adding to a very young football team and building from where we are now.
“I think our foundation for the future is fairly solid and that we know where we’re going. We know our style of play. We’ve become a very aggressive, tough football team.”
Despite his team’s losing record, Carroll has reason to be encouraged. Since taking over the Seahawks two years ago, Carroll and general manager John Schneider have overseen a massive roster overhaul, and while they didn’t fluke their way into an NFC West title again this season, the Seahawks were by almost every measure a better team. In 2010, the Seahawks were frequently blown out in losses, while in 2011, they were competitive in nearly every game — their Week 2 trip to Pittsburgh notwithstanding.
The Seahawks also formed a clear identity in the second half of the season, winning with a defense that finished in the top 10 in both yards and points allowed, and a running game that, after struggling early, hit its stride with Marshawn Lynch rushing for 941 yards in the season’s last nine games.
Carroll certainly hoped to be better than 7-9 this season. In all reality, however, the Seahawks appear to be ahead of schedule in what is, whether Carroll wants use the word or not, a rebuild.
“It has (happened) faster than John (Schneider) thought,” Carroll said. “I couldn’t think of anything but immediately. I don’t plan that way. John is happy with it. He saw it as a three- or four-year deal before we really had the foundation to really make a championship team.
“We feel like we’ve arrived at a foundation point. … We know the formula, we know the style, we love the toughness, we like the way we prepare, the mentality in our locker room, the communication between the coaches and the players gives us a chance to really go.”
Of course, the biggest piece of any team’s foundation is its quarterback and Carroll was asked repeatedly Tuesday about Seattle’s future at the most important position in football.
Tarvaris Jackson is under contract for another year, and despite some ups and downs and a serious pectoral injury, he played solidly enough that the Seahawks won’t have to panic this offseason and add a quarterback just for the sake of adding one. Even so, the Seahawks may well look at quarterback in the draft, or perhaps in free agency.
“It’ll be wide open,” Carroll said. “But he comes back as the leader at the spot. But he’s going to be under siege just like everybody else is.”
Receiver Sidney Rice, who ended his season on injured reserve after suffering two concussions in three weeks, had shoulder surgery Tuesday. Rice suffered a labrum injury during training camp, but returned to action after missing the regular season’s first two games. Carroll said Rice is looking at a three-to-four month recovery, which would allow him to return in late spring or early summer for organized team activities. Additionally, cornerback Richard Sherman will have his knee scoped.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle in October, has said that he doesn’t expect to need surgery. Carroll said team doctors are hoping for the same thing, though nothing has been determined.
“They’re still going to wait and see in the next couple weeks, but they are encouraged that his arm strength came back,” Carroll said. “… He’s encouraged that he doesn’t have to have surgery if he can make it through it, and barring any other information right now, it looks like he might not have to do that. That would really be a huge boost to his offseason, obviously, because it’s a three-to-four month deal if you do it.”
Carroll confirmed that assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus has taken the offensive line coaching job at Illinois and assistant special teams coach Jeff Ulbrich will head to UCLA to be the Bruins’ special teams coach.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog