The Seahawks season came to a disappointing end in Carolina on Sunday, which means everyone's attention around these parts is turning to the offseason. With that in mind, we look at what is coming up, while also looking back a bit to last weekend's loss, in this week's Seahawks Q&A. As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours.
@jordancda asks, "Why is Pete Carroll never mentioned for Coach of the Year?"
A: OK, so Jordan didn't actually submit this question as part of the Q&A, but rather in reply to a story I posted Wednesday, but it's an interesting question, so I'm addressing it here anyway. Since taking over the job in 2010, inheriting a team that had won a total of nine games the previous two seasons, Carroll has led the Seahawks to five playoff berths in six years, winning at least one playoff game each season. Since 2012, the Seahawks have a 46-18 regular-season record and have won a pair of NFC titles and one Lombardi Trophy. That's one hell of a coaching résumé, but as Jordan notes, Carroll has never been named coach of the year. The problem for Carroll, as well as general manager John Schneider, who has never been named executive of the year, is that those awards tend to go to coaches/executives who turn a team around, so sustained success isn't usually rewarded (short of pulling off something like the 15-1 season Carolina just had). Really, one or both of them could/should have been honored in 2012 or 2013, but now if the Seahawks keep cruising along, those awards will tend to find their way to coaches and executives of teams that went from losing seasons to the playoffs the next year.
As Richard Sherman said after the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense for the fourth straight year without a single player from that defense earning first-team All-Pro honors, sometimes people are spoiled by success.
@TheCrappyTotals asks, "Are there any free agent offensive linemen you could see the Seahawks targeting?"
A: This was one of many, many questions related to free agency, both in terms of Seahawks players headed towards free agency, and about players/positions they could target. Rather than ignore the topic all together, I'll answer by saying that, as someone employed by the team, it's not my place to speculate on things such as who the Seahawks can/will pay a certain amount of money, or on who they might pursue in outside free agency, or especially on what might transpire with players still under contract. I appreciate that people want to know these things, I'm just not the person to answer them. Besides, as Pete Carroll said, it's still way too early to know what is going to happen.
"It needs to be more competitive in a number of spots," Carroll said of the Seahawks roster. "So that's what the draft will do. That's what putting the roster together will do. I'm not able at this time to talk to you about any individual guys because it's today, it's Monday, we don't know anything yet, how we're going to get through all of this. But we have issues, like we do every season. There's difficult decisions that we'll have to make, and we'll make them, and we'll move forward in hopes of making our roster more competitive. There's a lot of guys on this roster right now, the young guys that you don't know a lot about, that I think have a chance to really push other guys that are on our team right now. It's an exciting group of young athletes, and speed, and mentality, and stuff that will have a chance to maybe give us a boost. So that's part of it, and then the draft, and whatever else we can do there, will also fit in. Then we'll come back and try to make this the most competitive camp we've ever had, and see what that leaves us with. I think that's going to leave us with a pretty strong group. But we have some areas that we want to work on for sure."
@ArrDJay asks, "Thomas Rawls wants to help his hometown of Flint, Michigan. How can 12s help him do that?"
A: As Rawls discussed Monday, he is planning on returning to his hometown of Flint, Michigan soon and wants to help a city dealing with a serious water crisis. As of when he met with the media, Rawls wasn't sure exactly how he will help, but as soon as we know anything, we'll let fans know how to help. In the meantime, here are a couple of articles with links to various ways to donate.
@TayTay81 asks, "What will the Seahawks do during the offseason to improve the O-Line and pass protection?"
A: This was a topic Carroll discussed quite a bit on Monday, noting that he wants to make the line more competitive, particularly to avoid the early-season struggles that affect the line before things turned around in the second half of the year. What that means exactly remains to be seen, but you can read more on that topic here.
@jetotten asks, "Why should I even get out of bed on Sundays now?" And @sarah_seattle12 asks, "Suggested coping mechanisms for mourning 12s?"
A: People are taking this loss kind hard, eh? Well if it's too soon for you to watch the NFC and AFC championship games on Sunday, don't worry, there are plenty of other fun things you can do. If you're the outdoors type, maybe go skiing and take advantage of all the snow we're getting this year. If you have kids, play with them. Or if you feel like you need a drink, check out some of the many breweries and wineries. Or maybe you're religious, but not religious enough to miss part of a 10 a.m. Seahawks game for church, so this is your week to go back. Whatever you choose Sunday, just remember that as much as you wish the Seahawks were playing in this game, you were lucky enough to watch them advance to a Super Bowl for two straight seasons, something fans in very few cities have been able to say about their team in recent years.
@TruthisTold2U asks, "Could the Seahawks be looking at a free-agent cornerback?"
A: The Seahawks will look at a lot of things in free agency, just like they look for ways to get better at every position in the draft, but cornerback is an interesting position in particular because of the way the Seahawks develop, or as Carroll likes to phrase it, indoctrinate, corners in their system. Almost all of Seattle's best cornerbacks under Carroll have taken time to develop, from Byron Maxwell to Jeremy Lane to DeShawn Shead—even Richard Sherman was third on the depth chart to start his rookie season. Seattle's technique isn't easy to grasp, which is why Shead was able to beat out a longtime NFL starter, Cary Williams, for a job midway through the 2015 season. The plus side to doing things that way is that it allows a team to build one of the best secondaries in the NFL without ever using a pick before the fourth round on a cornerback, but the bad part is that newcomers can struggle. That doesn't mean the Seahawks absolutely won't sign a cornerback, but there's a good chance they'd prefer to continue developing young players like Tharold Simon (spent the season on IR), rookie Tye Smith, Mohammed Seisay (IR), or practice squad members George Farmer and Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
"I'd like to think that our guys, because they've been coached by us, that they know our stuff and they're well-schooled," Carroll said. "I know we have a number of corners—George Farmer, that you haven't seen, that's a nice player for us, we'll bring him back—and guys to work at the spot that have a real future. They've kind of been indoctrinated now, but now they have to come back and utilize the skills, and get in some really good, competitive opportunities. I know Richard has already talked about getting those guys together, and making sure they're keeping their skills going through the offseason, and doing some special things. Because you can see a real young kind of a nucleus of guys that could be a factor for us, so it's a good group I think."
@jeff_luxton asks, "How many draft picks do the Seahawks have right now?"
A: As of now, my understanding is that the Seahawks have six picks in this year's draft. That's based on having one pick in each round to begin with, minus the two they traded away to get Kelcie McCray from Kansas City and Seisay from Detroit, plus the conditional pick they got from Dallas for Christine Michael (who, unlikely enough, finished the seasons back in Seattle). It's worth remembering, however, that the league awards compensatory picks to teams based on how many players they lost and added in free agency, and since the Seahawks again had more free agents leave (Byron Maxwell, James Carpenter, Malcolm Smith, O'Brien Schofield) than they signed (Ahtyba Rubin) before the June 1 date that is used to determine compensatory compensation, the Seahawks should have more picks by draft weekend than the six they currently hold.
@JoshHarris1997 asks, "What made Doug Baldwin step up his game and can he take it into next season?"
A: While Baldwin, like any player with another year of experience under his belt, certainly improved in some areas of his game, his sudden jump in numbers had less to do with Baldwin getting significantly better, and more to do with the growth of the offense and the passing game as a whole.
Russell Wilson took off in the second half of the season, throwing 24 touchdowns and one interception in the final seven games, and with that came a lot more chances for Baldwin, who set a club record with 14 touchdowns. This had less to do with Baldwin making huge strides in his game, and more to do with him making the most of an increased opportunity to make plays.
@okwieton asks, "Why didn't Carroll opt for a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter, but then try one from 55 yards later?"
A: This question came up a couple of times, and as Carroll himself noted, for that to have been a good decision, they had to convert on fourth down, but let's look into this a bit. First, let's separate the 55-yard attempt from the debate about the earlier decision to go for it, because when that kick was attempted, there were just four seconds on the clock, so at that point you're weighing the odds of connecting on a desperation heave into the end zone vs. the much better chances that Steven Hauschka makes a long, but within his range, field goal attempt.
As for the earlier decision to go for it, it's easy in retrospect to say the Seahawks needed those three points in a game they trailed by 10 late in the fourth quarter, however, when it was 31-0 in the second quarter, there was no way to know whether the Seahawks would be better off with the three points or by going for every point they could get while so far behind. Considering the Panthers had put up 31 points so quickly, wasn't it more likely at that moment for Carroll to think his team needed, say, 40-plus points to win or force overtime, and not exactly 31? Let's say the Seahawks kicked a field goal there, then the Panthers eventually kicked two second-half field goals and won 37-34? Then everyone would look back to when the Seahawks kicked a field goal while down 31 points and say they should have gone for it. My point isn't that Carroll necessarily made the right or wrong call in that moment, but rather that it's just a little too easy to judge a decision after the fact knowing how things turned out than it is to make that decision in the moment.
@nickquirini asks, "What is the best offensive and defensive play for the Seahawks this past season?"
A: I'm going to give two different answers for the best offensive play. In terms of just degree of difficulty, I'd give the nod to Baldwin's leaping grab in the playoff win over the Vikings, a one-handed effort that would have been a great catch under any conditions, but that was especially impressive considering the subzero temperatures that made it hard for players to even feel their hands, let alone use them for such an amazing play. But in terms of the most meaningful play, I again go with a Baldwin catch, but this one being his 80-yard touchdown that helped clinch a win over Pittsburgh. Had the Seahawks not held on to win that shootout against the Steelers, it's entirely possible they wouldn't have made the playoffs, even with a strong finish.
On defense, there are plenty of good choices, from Cary Williams' forced fumble, recovery and touchdown in the opener, to Ahtyba Rubin's interception in that critical win over Pittsburgh, to Bobby Wagner's fumble recovery and touchdown against the Bengals, but my choice is DeShawn Shead's Week 17 interception late in the game against the Cardinals. This wasn't the best play in terms of degree of difficulty—though Shead made a very nice play leaping over John Brown to take the ball away at the goal line—but it was a very significant play because it allowed the Seahawks to finish the season allowing the fewest points in the NFL for a fourth straight season, something that hadn't been done before in the Super Bowl era.
Team photographer Rod Mar shot what turned out to be his final photo essay of the 2015 season, as the Seahawks traveled to North Carolina and fell to the Panthers in the NFC Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.