It’s the Seahawks’ largest coaching overhaul/purge of the eight-year Pete Carroll era.
The team on Tuesday finally made it official that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Kris Richard, offensive line coach and assistant head coach Tom Cable and linebackers coach and assistant head coach Michael Barrow were all fired. On Wednesday, the team released a statement from Richard that read: “I would like to thank Mr. Allen and the entire Seahawks organization for the opportunity to realize my dreams. I wish nothing but the best to everybody associated with the organization and the 12s moving forward.”
So now there’s a line of thinking out there of: Why is Pete Carroll still the head man if the Seahawks deemed every other top coach, including both coordinators, should be fired?
Why? Because Carroll said so.
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Carroll, entirely, made these decisions. He made the calls to hire Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator and play caller, Ken Norton Jr. as defensive coordinator and Mike Solari as offensive line coach, too.
It’s been his operation, since the day after this past season ended with Seattle 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Actually, it’s been this way since January 2010, when Carroll arrived from USC to lead the franchise only because Seahawks owner Paul Allen authorized then-CEO Tod Leiweke to give Carroll all-encompassing, USC-like power over all football personnel matters. They gave him an executive vice president title to put that carte blanche in writing.
John Schneider arrived in the same month as Carroll did as a first-time NFL general manager. Schneider agreed to that overarching authority for the head coach. Yes he has since added his own executive vice-president title in a subsequent contract extension. And the 46-year-old GM’s current contract goes two years past the 66-year-old Carroll’s, through 2021. And the two have thrived and raved about their unique collaboration.
But Schneider knows this remains Carroll’s program. Especially, absolutely with the coaching staff.
More to the point, the Seahawks--as an franchise, a front office, the owner, the GM--didn't decide all the top assistants needed to be fired. Carroll did.
Allen almost never gets involved in football operations and backs what Carroll wants anyway. The owner and Schneider do not believe Carroll's way that got them to two Super Bowls, including the franchise’s first NFL championship, plus five consecutive playoff appearances ending this month is suddenly broken.
So why now? Why, immediately, in the first days of the first true, uh-oh-we-aren’t-even-a-playoff-team-anymore adversity the Seahawks have had since 2011, the second year of Carroll’s program in Seattle?
Carroll is pulling what may be the final staff strings of his coaching tenure in Seattle.
He has two years remaining on his contract. In two seasons, he will be at a career crossroads. That is one of the only decisions Allen will weigh in for: At age 68, will Carroll be worthy by the end of the 2019 season for another contract to continue what up to know has been the most sustained run of championship-level success the Seahawks have ever known? Will Carroll indeed fulfill what he told me in the summer of 2014, in the middle of the back-to-back Super Bowls, was his desire: to coach 10 more years, through age 72? Or does he want to spend more than just the limited football offseason weeks at his part-time home Haleiwa, on Oahu’s north shore in Hawaii?
Or will Allen decide, with Schneider having two years left at least in Seattle, that Carroll’s magic has run its course, that’s it’s time for a new era? By then, the roster of core Seahawks that got to those Super Bowls in the 2013 and ‘14 seasons--Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor--will all be over 30 years old, or gone from the team if not the league, or both.
Wilson’s situation, in particular, is another reason for these moves by Carroll to replace Bevell and Cable with Schottenheimer and Solari in coaching the offense and calling the plays.
Don’t look now but the indispensable quarterback’s $87.6 million contract extension he signed in the summer of 2016 has just two seasons remaining on it. The Seahawks wanted a fifth year, to take him through the 2020 season. But Wilson and agent Mark Rodgers insisted on just four, so Wilson could become a free agent again following the 2019 season when he was still just 30 years old and able to command at least one more megabucks, multiyear deal in his career.
That leaves Wilson and Carroll jointly invested, in contractual terms, in the Seahawks’ immediate future. Carroll does not want to and can’t afford to wait until next year to re-set his offense the way he always wants it: run-based, run-first and run-last, with the quarterback’s and passing game’s successes based upon play-action passes defenses must honor in ways they absolutely have not the last two seasons.
And not just with runs by Wilson scrambling with his head cut off trying to avoid getting killed on pass calls, either. That’s how and why Wilson in 2017 became just the third NFL quarterback in the last 26 years to be his team’s leading rusher. Cam Newton did it for Carolina in 2012, and in 2000 Donovan McNabb led Philadelphia in rushing. Add Randall Cunningham for the Eagles from 1987-90 and Bobby Douglass for the Chicago Bears in 1972, and Wilson is the fifth quarterback since not only the 1970 NFL-AFL merger but back to 1960 to lead his team in rushing, according to footballperspective.com.
Bevell came to believe by the middle of last season the Seahawks’ best way--maybe only way--to win was putting the ball in Wilson’s hands and let him create yards and points, often improvisationally outside the offense’s structure. Wilson had 86.4 percent of the Seahawks’ 5,286 offensive yards that way this season (3,983 yards passing, with a league-best 34 touchdowns, and 586 yards rushing). That shattered the previous NFL record of 81.8 percent of his team’s yards by Tacoma native Jon Kitna for the Lions in 2006.
But Carroll doesn’t want that. He wants Wilson as he was in 2012, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15, playing off the running game that controlled field position, clock and defenses. Wilson threw on time, which is to say on normal drop backs in the offense’s structure instead of scrambling to pass to so much. His protection was better because defenses that had to honor Seattle’s run didn’t tee off recklessly in pass rushing. And Wilson gained many more of his yards, including his career-high 849 yards rushing with six touchdowns in the Super Bowl season of 2014, on read-option plays set up by successful runs inside by running backs. Again, within the structure of the offense.
So Carroll fired Bevell and his running-game coordinator, Cable. Expect Schottenheimer, the former Jets and Rams play caller, to have normal offensive-coordinator responsibilities. That is, of both the passing and running games. Expect Solari to be the line coach and nothing more. Expect Carroll’s next moves to be getting the blockers and the running backs to continue the rebuild.
And expect this Seahawks offense, specifically the rushing offense, to be the one Carroll wants.
So far, and still, whatever Carroll wants in Seattle, he gets.