Over the first two games, the Seattle Seahawks have converted 28 percent of their third downs. Not only is that 29th among 32 NFL teams, it’s 10 percent less than in 2017, a year so unproductive that in the offseason, coach Pete Carroll trap-doored his top two offensive coaches and drafted a running back in the first round.
The rhetoric surrounding the transformation insisted that the Seahawks were committed to the run game the way the seven dwarfs were committed to Snow White. Now? She’s kicked to the curb.
The Seahawks seem to be playing a little afraid.
Not only are they not often running the ball, only four of quarterback Russell Wilson’s passes Monday in Chicago traveled more than 15 yards. Yes, a short passing game made sense because of Bears linebacker Khalil Mack’s Kraken-like tendencies. But completely self-censoring the deep pass puts even more pressure to run.
Instead, they dinked. And lost.
Carroll almost always cites failure to convert third downs as the source of the problem. That isn’t the source of the problem, because it’s a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the offensive line’s inability to muster a sustained threat.
Oh, and one other thing.
“I’ll take it — my impatience,” Carroll said Wednesday. His self-admonishment about play-calling is the latest in a string of mea culpa statements by the coach.
On the surface, anyway, the candor is commendable.
“Both games were close enough throughout that we could do whatever we want to all the way down to the end of it,” Carroll said. “Got a little impatient, threw the ball more than we wanted to. I’m owning up. That’s what I would say is the issue.
“I’m over that.”
That, of course, remains to be seen Sunday in the home opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Bears, the Seahawks threw 14 consecutive passes over second and third quarters despite Carroll’s almost evangelical preaching the previous week regarding the run.
So pardon me for double-cocking the eyebrows.
“I need to be less impatient,” he said, offering a half-smile. “I tend to be (impatient).”
That must be fun for Brian Schottenheimer, who has traveled the land working for seven previous pro teams and three colleges. In his first year as Seahawks offensive coordinator, Schottenheimer may be a little reluctant to argue with a Super Bowl-winning head coach, figuring there’s only a finite number of places left for him to coach.
Having problems there, Pete?
“No,” he said. “We are growing together. I was with (fired assistants Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable) for seven, eight years. There is stuff to grow, new situations that happen. I need to do a really good job in helping him.”
Nice idea, but part of the idea is for Schottenheimer to help the Seahawks, not repeat the mistakes of the earlier regime.
Carroll made a point of saying that he wasn’t calling plays for Schottenheimer. But …
“I can affect the way the guy is thinking,” he said. “Not just Brian; that’s the way it’s been with play-callers for years. You can screw him up, and you can also give him some good plays once in a while, too.”
The deciphering of the coaching relationship may be a moot point. Carroll may be absorbing the criticism for the 0-2 start because it keeps the media jackals from flaying players and assistants. It’s an old coaching trick.
Mariners fans may recall the 2001 postseason when the Mariners went down 0-2 at home to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Manager Lou Piniella, recognizing that the media would make a bad situation worse by pestering his 116-game-winning players with questions about choking, opened his presser with a fiery statement that the Mariners would win in New York and bring the series back to Seattle.
Reporters sprinted up to the pressbox to run with the quick, easy story, ignoring the clubhouse. The strategy looked brilliant after Game 3’s 14-3 win, but the Yankees cruised in the next two to win the series 4-1.
Moral of the story: BS can work, but only for so long.
Carroll’s willingness to be the object of public criticism is smart. But eventually, and perhaps as soon as Sunday, the line, which might be missing center Justin Britt (shoulder) and left guard Ethan Pocic (ankle), will have to block to create a rushing attack that allows Wilson to run when it suits him, as well as throw open his receivers deep.
Otherwise, they’re playing scared.
But this may not be the weekend to test the theory. Even though on Christmas Eve in Dallas, the Seahawks beat the Cowboys 21-12, Seattle had 136 yards of offense, including 76 rushing yards on 30 carries. Freakiest win of the season.
Most of Dallas’ ferocious defense is back. Six players sacked Eli Manning Sunday in the Cowboys’ 20-13 win over the Giants. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who may be the equal of Mack and Denver’s Von Miller, is eager for replication.
“We can’t just sit here and get satisfied off of sacking Eli,” Lawrence told reporters. “We’ve gotta do it again and go sack Russell.”
Carroll’s shoulders are broad enough to take criticism. Pity they’re not broad enough to take on Lawrence.
Art Thiel is co-founder of sportspressnw.com.