INDIANAPOLIS—For the first time in a decade, the Seahawks head into an offseason looking to bounce back from a losing season.
But while no one believes that the Seahawks' play in 2021, which resulted in a 7-10 record and only the second season without a postseason berth in the past 10 seasons, the Seahawks arrive in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine feeling not like a team on a downward trajectory, but rather a team that with some good moves made this offseason, can get right back to its winning ways in 2022.
"We're coming off a season that we know we want to turn back into the direction we've been in for a long time," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It was hard and difficult, and we hated it. But what we take out of it is just it feels like a resurgence. I feel it. I'm fired up and jacked about it, and there's nothing about any of these challenges that we can't make great decisions and turn things in a good direction and get going again."
Now, it's probably worth noting that fired up and jacked is Carroll's default setting, but even by his very enthusiastic standards, Carroll seemed especially upbeat when he met with the media at the combine.
"I'm freakin' jacked up, if you want to know the truth," he later said. "I'm jacked up. I'm not kidding. I'm not a kidding. I can't wait to get this thing going."
General manager John Schneider had a similar view to last season and what lies ahead.
"It was hard," he said of having a losing record and missing the playoffs. "It was really hard, but it also creates this excitement about, OK, we know how to do it, we've been here before, we're going to do it again… It hurts. It really hurts not making the playoffs. It's like, 'whoa!' It's a reset. We always self-scout, but that's not making it a losing season. But yeah, it's an exciting time."
One reason Carroll and Schneider are excited about the future is the emergence of some young players who stood out last season like Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor and, for a short stint, Tre Brown, and also what they expect to see out of some of the young players who have yet to make big contributions like Dee Eskridge and Marquise Blair, the latter of whom has missed much of the past two seasons with knee injuries.
"What I'm excited about is the young guys," Carroll said. "The young guys really do bring us something. Jordyn Brooks had a fantastic season. He's just going to keep getting better. I don't know how you could have more tools than he has. His ability to run, his diagnosis, his physicality, play making, just available for the whole scheme. He'll just get better, but he is a really good football player. Alton Robinson. Those guys are going to do a great job, and I was really impressed with Tre Brown too last year. I know you guys didn't get to see him a lot, but we saw him in practice. In preparing him to play when he was banged up, when he finally got there, he did really well."
Schneider also referenced "so many cool young guys that haven't even been able to (see action)," and noted that the goal is to acquire and develop enough young and talented players to get back to where the team was at its peak last decade when the rest of the NFL looked to add players the Seahawks cut before the start of the season.
"We have to do a better job," he said. "I have to do a better job in this area, in this area, in this area, in that area. So those are the things that I take personally and try to challenge our staff with. How do we get this team to—the year we won the Super Bowl, I think we had 21 players or 20-some players that played for other teams. We have to provide the coaches with so much talent that they have a really, really hard time figuring out, at the end of the day, when we go to 53, who we're going to keep, and then how do we keep all those guys in those 16 players in the practice squad?"
The Seahawks also like their chances to improve in 2022 for the simple reason that they are almost certain to fair better in close games than they did last year. For much of Carroll and Schneider's tenure in Seattle, particularly with Russell Wilson at quarterback, the Seahawks have been great at finishing out close games, but last year the Seahawks were 0-5 in games decided by three or fewer points, including two losses in games Wilson missed due to injury.
"There was a stretch in this football season that's unlike anything that we've seen in the last decade, where the games were extremely close and the opportunities to win the games, as we have always won the games, to make us a successful, winning football club, things just didn't happen the way they had been," Carroll said. "We went through a stretch in there where we lost a ton of games. It was in the transition time when Russ went down and Geno (Smith) stepped up, and Geno did a marvelous job in stepping up, and played his best game in his last game. I loved the way he showed that, after four years of being down, he could come back, be competitive, and then play such beautiful football.
"But during that stretch when Russ came back in action, we just didn't win games. We were there in all of them. We just didn't win the games. Whether it was a two-point conversion to tie the thing to go to OT, or whether it was wining in OT, whether it was all of those things. Now I look back, I see it clearly. At the time, I was battling and competing and trying and get it done. Russ did a remarkable job of returning in four weeks. I wish I would've helped him more. I didn't think I helped him as much as I could have. I always go back to what I could have done. We finally came out of it. We won four out of six or something at the end of the season. It wasn't great, but it was a finish that we're accustomed to, and it just started too late. We missed our opportunity, and that's what that is. And so, I'm not shaken by that at all. I'm just pissed that we had to all live through that, and not have the fun that we like having, winning football games. There's things that we need to do. There's a tremendous amount of focus on improving and doing things better than we did. I hate learning the hard way, but there are some hard lessons in there. Hopefully, we'll make big quick jumps in areas that will make a difference. Really, can't wait to get cranked up again and get it going. But there was that stretch about that season that we weren't able to get out of it. It took us too long. By the time we did, the season had gotten away from us. So on we go."
Check out photos from the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday, March 3.