Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks to reporters during his end-of-season press conference on Jan. 2, 2017, in Renton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks to reporters during his end-of-season press conference on Jan. 2, 2017, in Renton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Carroll still believes Seahawks can be title contenders

The coach insists he isn’t retiring, but there are many issues surrounding Seattle heading into next season.

  • By Tim Booth Associated Press
  • Tuesday, January 2, 2018 8:07pm
  • SportsSeahawks

Associated Press

RENTON — Pete Carroll insisted again that he’s not going anywhere. He’s intent on remaining the leader of the Seattle Seahawks even if it means many of the faces he spoke to this week while closing out the 2017 season are gone by the time Carroll finally gets to coach his team again.

“I’m pumped up about it. I’m excited about that challenge,” Carroll said Tuesday. “I’m upset that we have to face it this early. I’d like another six weeks here, that would be nice. But that’s not what this one is. We got to go after it. Nothing’s going to change other than maybe our resolve.”

For just the second time in his eight years in Seattle, Carroll spent Tuesday explaining why the Seahawks were not in the postseason. It’s the first playoff miss for Seattle since the 2011 season and the rapid rise of division foe Los Angeles indicated — at least for one year — a significant change in the hierarchy of the NFC West.

Injuries played a major role in Seattle’s slide to 9-7. So, too, did inconsistency on offense, continued problems with penalties and salary cap constraints that limited adjustments the Seahawks could make during the season.

It’s likely to be a busy offseason as Seattle attempts to manage its tight cap situation while making key decisions about how to move forward and if it still is a championship contender needing slight tweaks or a major overhaul.

“I think there is a championship team sitting in this meeting room right here,” Carroll said.

Here are some of the issues to know about Seattle’s 2017 season and going into next year:

Rediscover the run

Perhaps nothing irritated Carroll more, or had a great impact on the efficiency of the offense, than Seattle’s inability to run. It’s been a staple of Carroll’s program from the day he arrived in Seattle.

This year the Seahawks had one rushing touchdown by a running back. Quarterback Russell Wilson was the leading rusher with 586 yards, 346 more than any other player. Seattle had hopes for promising rookie Chris Carson, but he was sidelined by an ankle injury early in the season and never made it back. The lack of a running game affected Wilson as a passer as well, as defenses didn’t have to commit an extra safety to stopping the run, leading to smaller throwing windows and some tentative decisions by Wilson.

“There are tremendous examples of teams around the league that have turned their fortunes around with a formula that should sound familiar to you: teams running the football, playing good defense and doing the kicking game thing,” Carroll said.

Injury concerns

Carroll wouldn’t get into specifics, but there is a chance Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor have played their final games. Avril and Chancellor suffered neck injuries during the season. Carroll said on the radio Tuesday that both would have a “hard time” playing football again. A couple of hours later, he softened his stance, saying each have quality-of-life decisions to address with their football future.

“Both those guys are marvelous people and competitors and all that. We’d love to see them through the rest of their career. I don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Carroll said.

Legion of Whom

If Chancellor does not return, it could be the start of a major makeover for Seattle’s secondary. Richard Sherman is coming off a torn Achilles tendon and was openly shopped by Seattle last offseason. Earl Thomas is entering the last year of his contract and his actions toward the end of the season indicated a desire to be elsewhere for the 2018 season.

A big key will be if Seattle can re-sign versatile safety Bradley McDougald after he played both free and strong safety this season.

Home-field average

Seattle went 4-4 at home, its first .500 record at CenturyLink Field since 2011. The Seahawks have always thrived at home, but some of their uglier performances this year came in front of their own fans.

Off the field

Seattle was among the most active teams in the league with a significant number of players participating in national anthem protests. The protests, on top of the incident Michael Bennett had with police in Las Vegas in August, created a number of unexpected issues.

Carroll said he believed that only once this season — Seattle’s loss at Tennessee — did discussions of off-field issues affect the team’s performance. Seattle had long discussions following comments by President Donald Trump about NFL players and opted to remain in the locker room as a team during the anthem before that game.

“That was an extraordinarily heated time,” Carroll said. “I think that was a different amount of emotional output that occurred before the game and it looked like it the way we played.”

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