For the first time in a long time, the 49ers' division rival Seattle Seahawks are in complete disarray, as what was believed to be a promising season now has them sitting at 3-8, which is the second-worst record in the NFC, trailing only the winless Detroit Lions.
Considering how much-sustained success Seattle has had over the last decade, these truly are uncharted waters for its current regime, which have led an organization that has been one of the most consistent winners in all of professional sports during their tenures.
So the question begs, are they just a bad team? Is this just a rough stretch exacerbated by a midseason injury to their franchise quarterback (who had never missed a game in his entire career before this season)? Can they turn it around? What does this mean for their matchup with the 49ers this week?
To get some clarity around these questions, I had the pleasure of speaking with John Gilbert, who covers the team for Field Gulls, and who was kind enough to answer a couple of questions to help paint a picture of where things truly stand for the Seahawks at this point in time.
1) Do you feel like the Seahawks' struggles this season are an anomaly or some kind of combination of a rare stretch of sub-par play/bad luck, or is it more indicative of larger issues at an organizational level?
“It’s really a combination of bad luck coming after years of subpar drafting and roster building. For several seasons now, the Seahawks have had an entire host of issues on both sides of the ball, but having Russell Wilson at quarterback helped mask many of those issues. It’s no coincidence that Seattle lost two of three while Russ was out and that they have lost all three games he has started since returning when he is clearly not back to where he was prior to the injury.
In seasons past, these issues were covered up by a combination of a soft schedule and Wilson’s play, and once those were removed from the equation, things went off the rails. For example, many point at the 12-4 season the Seahawks posted in 2020 and then look at 3-8 as a drastic drop-off, but the records are somewhat misleading. Over the course of the entire 2020 regular season, the Seahawks played just four opponents that would make the playoffs, and they were 2-2 in those games. Further, the two games they did win were over the Los Angeles Rams in the game where Jared Goff broke his thumb in the middle of the game and over the Washington Football Team that would make the playoffs at 7-9. When they faced the Rams with a healthy Goff, they lost, and when they faced the Buffalo Bills, they got stomped. So, how good is a team that builds a 12-4 record by going 10-2 against teams that missed the playoffs?
And that’s not a new trend, either. Both the 10-6 2018 Seahawks and the 11-5 2019 Seahawks built those records on the back of eight victories against opponents that missed the postseason, with the 2018 squad posting an especially ugly 2-4 record against playoff teams. That, of course, does not mean that the Seahawks have been bad. It simply means that they likely weren’t as good as many fans and observers had hoped. Thus, when Wilson went down, and the flaws were exposed in a season in which the Hawks faced a difficult schedule over the first eleven weeks, the illusion came crashing down.”
2) Do you think the marriage of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson is sustainable moving forward? If not, who would you move on from, if not both?
“This is an extremely interesting question, and I personally think the answer has been no for some time. Pete wants to win with defense and a clock-controlling run game, but Seattle hasn’t fielded a top ten scoring defense since 2016. They finally have one this season, and the offense hasn’t been able to do much of anything since Wilson got hurt.
Putting things together, between the behind-the-scenes drama during 2020 on which Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic reported and reports beginning to emerge of the locker room in disarray, it’s easy to see that the relationship could end soon.
That said, it likely comes down to what happens over the final six games. If Pete loses the locker room and the team falters down the stretch, it’s not difficult to see ownership deciding to go a different direction.
The Seahawks have the same ownership as the Portland Trailblazers, who moved on from Terry Stotts at the end of the 2020-2021 season following a fourth first-round playoff loss in five years. Assuming the Hawks miss the playoffs, which seems all but assured at this point, Seattle under Pete Carroll would also have only been past the first round of the playoffs once in the past five seasons while missing the postseason entirely twice.
That’s not to say a split is already written in stone, just that it feels like whether the wheels come off completely or whether the team is competitive down the stretch might have a significant impact on whether Carroll is back in 2022.”
3) Regardless of Seattle’s record/recent stretch of play, they still maintain a long stretch of dominance over the 49ers. Do you still feel like that historical ownage gives the players and fans confidence that they will handle business whenever they match up with the 49ers?
“It feels like a lot of fans certainly feel this way, but I don’t know how much it really matters with the players on the field. I think it matters more in terms of the ability of the coaching staff to prepare the team for what is coming. Kyle Shanahan seems to know how to slow down Sean McVay, while Carroll appears to be Shanahan’s kryptonite. How much, if any meaning that will carry into the game Sunday afternoon is anyone’s guess.”
I agree with a great deal of what John had to say, and I think that he did a tremendous job highlighting how much dysfunction has been masked by having a franchise quarterback (a luxury the 49ers hope to have in the near future after moving the picks they did to draft Trey Lance).
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season and subsequent offseason unfold for the Seahawks, as there is sure to be a great deal of turbulence that has otherwise stayed off the radar during Carroll’s tenure.
Regardless of how their season shakes out, they will always present a difficult task for the 49ers, and I expect the game on Sunday to be another hard-fought game no matter how poor Seattle has played in recent weeks. I will add that the 49ers having the chance to effectively end Seattle’s playoff hopes might just be the needed boost to an already fierce rivalry that gives this game the juice that we have grown accustomed to when these two teams take the field against one and other