A season and a half into his tenure, the honeymoon is over for Pete Carroll. He has started to absorb a lot of heat for every misstep he and the Seahawks take, and most people are saying his fate in Seattle will be determined by whether he adds a franchise quarterback next offseason and that QB develops quickly.
In the absence of a potential QB of the future (since we all know Charlie Whitehurst is not that) Carroll decided to go with Tarvaris Jackson over Matt Hasselbeck this season. You can’t say the results have been any better than they would have been with Hasselbeck, especially after Jackson had his worst game of the season Sunday and largely cost the Seahawks a chance to win in Dallas as they fell to 2-6.
Apparently the Hawks can do only one thing well on offense at once. They finally ran the ball well, but Jackson threw two really stupid interceptions in the second half that doomed the Hawks.
Jackson had largely stayed away from big mistakes amid the offense’s other struggles this season, but the main reason he is not viewed as a long-term answer at QB is that he just doesn’t seem to have a high enough football IQ. He does not diagnose things well enough or quickly enough, and he tends to force the ball. Oh, and he can’t run a two-minute offense to save his life.
In the third quarter of the Dallas game, his attempt at throwing the ball away in traffic was horrible, as the ball caromed off one D-lineman and into the arms of another. That set up the Cowboys in Seattle territory, and they drove 40 yards for a touchdown and a 20-6 lead.
Two plays later, Jackson threw his second pick – an ill-advised, underthrown ball to a covered Sidney Rice. That set up the Cowboys at the Seattle 35, and just like that a seven-point game had turned into a three-score contest.
Then Jackson continued a theme we have seen from him before this season; he failed to show any urgency. He took five minutes to drive the team 70 yards for its only touchdown, and he actually, unbelievably, was huddling up.
While the Seahawks had plenty of other problems in the game – penalties, missed tackles, no pass rush, a blocked field goal – Jackson was their biggest.
This is the third straight game the Seahawks have lost that they certainly could have won, but they are exactly where we expected them to be at this point. That’s why it’s funny to see people criticizing Carroll. How stupid were these people? Did they really think the Seahawks were going to contend this season?
Last week, Carroll admitted that a decade of winning at USC made him overconfident of his team’s ability to develop quickly. Carroll is finding it more difficult to succeed on the level playing field of the NFL.
There were always people who didn’t think he would succeed (or just didn’t want him to), just as there were plenty of people who thought he would. But the critics are starting to get louder. They point to the horrible offense with no running game and no definite quarterback of the future. They point to seemingly whimsical personnel moves, an undisciplined young team and blowout losses. And they point to coaching decisions that defy coaching logic and tend to reflect an ego stoked by a decade of college dominance.
Pro Football Weekly solicited some interesting comments from an anonymous NFL personnel man, who said Earl Thomas is the only Seattle player who would start for his team and who thinks Carroll might not even last long enough to develop the franchise quarterback everyone thinks he needs.
“I like Pete, but if he does not find (a quarterback) next year, he’s done; and even then, it might be too late. By the time a rookie comes around, it’ll be for another coach. …”
The personnel man apparently thinks Carroll is a college coach whose NFL experience will not help him: “It’s a little different up here when you can’t recruit 10 first-rounders every year. You can flip it fast in college. It’s a lot harder at our level. I’ve always thought he was an excellent college coach. He had it humming at USC. But I don’t think he’s cut out for this league.”
I’m not prepared to make that judgment after a season and a half, especially when he is still trying to build an offense.
When Carroll was hired, I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was not a college coach making the jump to the NFL; he was an NFL coach who ran a pro-style program that dominated college. I figured to give him two seasons to prove himself and judge his progress at the end of this year. And, for me, his progress will be judged almost exclusively on how well the offensive line develops. If that unit is still horrible by the end of this season and the Hawks still cannot run the ball, I will begin to doubt Carroll’s ability.
The Dallas game was a promising sign, but the offensive line needs to continue the progress and turn into a good run-blocking crew by the end of the year.
Then Carroll can feel good about finding a young quarterback to put behind it, because Jackson showed Sunday that he is just not capable of being the guy.
**The lack of urgency on that late touchdown drive, with Seattle trailing by three scores, makes us wonder if the two-headed play caller of Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell is a real problem in those cases. Is it really Jackson being slow or is it the coaches?
**Penalties are a reflection of poor coaching, too. The Hawks had too many penalties again Sunday – 10 for 88 yards. The O-line had four for the second straight week (including a false start by Anthony McCoy) as the unit continues to rack them up at a ridiculous rate. Carroll needs to remind Cable that these are not his old Raiders, who almost always led the NFL in flags.
**Carroll also needs to stop burning his timeouts. He ill-advisedly challenged a nice catch by Jason Witten in the second half, leaving him with one timeout. And then he spent that with 2:57 left while Dallas had the ball. The first timeout was used on a third down early in the third quarter. This has become an unwelcome theme that has cost the Seahawks in close games (see the end of the first half against Cincinnati).
**Special teams let the Hawks down again, with a blocked field goal that was key and four penalties, including two on rookie Byron Maxwell for the WTF infraction of “not trying hard enough to get back in bounds.” That unit’s coach, Brian Schneider, should be on Paterno-thin ice.
**The Hawks got neither sacks nor much pressure, once again highlighting the need for pass-rush help next year. That doesn’t necessarily mean another outside rusher. As we pointed out in our first in-season mock draft, the Hawks could certainly benefit from a tackle who can force the QB out of the pocket and into the arms of the outside rushers.