The Seahawks 2023 season came to an end earlier this month with a victory that improved their record to 9-8, but that wasn't enough to get them into the postseason.
What followed was a significant change for the organization, with Seahawks Chair Jody Allen announcing that Pete Carroll and the team amicably agreed that he would step down as head coach and into an advisory role with the organization.
And while the 2023 season didn't live up to expectations, there were still plenty of good moments and standout performances worth celebrating. There's also plenty of optimism about the future under general manager John Schneider and whoever he hires to become the team's next head coach.
"I think it's a young, talented team that feels like they're right on the cusp," Schneider said. "I think there's a lot of guys who have a ton of confidence in their abilities. They're all highly disappointed in what just happened, and I think, to a man, they would all tell you—and I know this from the exit interviews that I had—that we still should be playing. Everyone was very disappointed. But I think it's a great core, I think we're a very attractive job because of that. There's young talent all over the place."
With all of that in mind, before moving onto that future, it's time recognize those players, plays and moments that stook out last season with this year's Seahawks 2023 Honors.
Offensive MVP: QB Geno Smith
As Schneider noted in his press conference last week, this season was somewhat of the reverse of 2022 for Smith, who started hot last year, then cooled off a bit late while still securing Pro Bowl and Comeback Player of the Year honors. Smith's start to the 2023 season wasn't as impressive, statistically speaking, but he finished strong, throwing eight touchdown passes with just one interception over his final four games, three of them Seahawks victories, posting a passer rating of 101.6 or better in each of the last three games. Smith also had a QBR (ESPN's quarterback ranking) of 81.3 over his final four games, the best in the NFL over that span.
Making Smith's 2023 season all the more impressive is that he had another strong season despite playing through multiple injuries of his own, and despite a plethora of injuries along the offensive line, a trend that started in the season-opener when starting tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas both left the game with injuries, and continued throughout the season. Yet even with the Seahawks having 10 different linemen start games this season, and using eight different O-line combinations in their first 10 games, Smith was sacked on only 5.8 percent of his pass attempts, the lowest rate of his career and the eighth-lowest in the NFL this season for quarterbacks who started more than eight games. Yes, the patchwork line held up well considering the circumstances, but the bigger factor in that low sack rate was Smith's underrated pocket movement combined with, late in the season, an emphasis on getting the ball out quickly.
And of course, when evaluating Smith's 2023 season, what stands out most is the big role he played in so many victories that went down to the wire. Smith led game-winning drives in five of Seattle's nine wins, throwing a game-winning touchdown pass against Detroit, Cleveland, Tennessee and Arizona, and getting the Seahawks in range for the game-winning field goal against Washington.
Those five game-winning drives in the fourth-quarter or overtime are tied for the most in a season in franchise history with Dave Krieg and Russell Wilson.
Defensive MVP: LB Bobby Wagner
A good case could also be made for rookie Devon Witherspoon, who had an outstanding first season—and we'll get to him soon—but for this honor we're going with Bobby Wagner, who in his 12th season continued to show why he will go down as one of the best players in franchise history.
After one season in Los Angeles, Wagner returned to Seattle in 2023 and went about putting together yet another impressive season in a career full of them. With 183 tackles, Wagner led the NFL for the third time in his career, and tied the franchise single-season record. He also became just the third player to record 100 or more tackles in 12 straight seasons, and was named second-team All-Pro and to his ninth Pro-Bowl squad. Wagner became one of three linebackers, along with Ray Lewis and Lawrence Taylor, to earn All-Pro honors 10 times, and his six first-team selections are the most in team history.
Wagner, one of two captains on the defense along with Quandre Diggs, also provided his usual leadership on the field and in the locker room, and was also recognized as the Seahawks' nominee for both the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, while also being named the team's Steve Largent Award winner.
Special Teams MVP: P Michael Dickson
While Michael Dickson hasn't earned Pro-Bowl or All-Pro honors since his rookie season, he has played at that level throughout his career, and a good case could be made that he was snubbed for year-end honors in one of his best seasons yet.
In addition to averaging a career-best 50.0 yards per punt, Dickson had a net average over 44 yards per kick (44.1) for the third time in his career and for the second year in a row. Dickson finished the season ranked third in the NFL in net average, and sixth in yards per punt.
Dickson was one of several standouts on special teams along with safety Julian Love, who tied for the league lead in special teams tackles with 13; kicker Jason Myers, who after missing three of his first six field goal attempts, went on to make 32 of 36 the rest of the way, finishing with a career-high and franchise record 35 field goals made, and who went 33 for 33 on extra points; and returner DeeJay Dallas, who averaged 25.9 yards per kick return, helping the Seahawks have the best starting field position in the NFL in 2023. Rookie Jerrick Reed II was also emerging as a special teams standout before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 11, and despite only appearing in 10 games, he still finished with nine special teams tackles, tied for third most on the team behind Love (13) and Nick Bellore (11).
Best Rookie, Offense: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
A fractured wrist suffered in the preseason didn't keep Jaxon Smith-Njigba from playing in the season opener, but the time he missed leading up to the start of the season—not to mention the cast on his hand for the first month of the season—did contribute to a slow start for the first-round pick. Once Smith-Njigba got going, however, he was a huge part of Seattle's offensive success, finishing the season with 63 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns, two of which were game-winners late in the fourth quarter. Smith-Njigba's 63 catches were the second most by a rookie in franchise history, a feat made all the more impressive given that he is sharing targets and playing time with the likes of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Best Rookie, Defense: CB Devon Witherspoon
As mentioned earlier, there's a case to be made for Witherspoon as the team's top defensive player, not just rookie.
A finalist for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Witherspoon was the only rookie defensive player in the league to make the Pro Bowl this year, was Pro Football Focus' top-graded rookie defender (minimum 600 snaps), was the Seahawks' highest-graded player by PFF, and he earned both NFL Rookie of the Month (October) and NFC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 4) honors. His 16 passes defensed ranked fifth in the NFL, and since that became a stat in 1999, Witherspoon is one of just seven players, and the only rookie, to record 16 passes defensed, 3.0 sacks and eight tackles for loss in a season.
Best Newcomer: S Julian Love
Even though he played for another team in 2022, it's too weird to think of Wagner as a newcomer on a team with whom he spent an entire decide, so we're skipping over him in this category, and instead giving the honor to another Pro-Bowl member of the defense, safety Julian Love.
Love, who signed with the Seahawks in free agency in March, wasn't an every-down player at times this season with Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams starting at safety, but he eventually took over a full time role with Adams injured, and had a great season, recording 123 tackles, one short of his career high, while establishing new career highs with 10 passes defensed and four interceptions, two of which came in a Monday night win over the Eagles that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. And as mentioned earlier, Love also led the team in special teams tackles despite having such a big role on defense.
In addition to Wagner, another former Seahawk, Jarran Reed, returned to Seattle to have a big season (more on him later), while an in-season acquisition, defensive end Leonard Williams, was a standout after arriving in a midseason trade, recording 4.0 sacks, 41 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hits.
Most Improved Player: LB Boye Mafe
Beginning in offseason workouts and throughout training camp, second-year outside linebacker Boye Mafe was lauded by coaches and teammates as one of the most improved players on the squad, and he backed that praise up in 2023.
Stepping into a bigger role in Year 2, the 2022 second-round pick led the Seahawks with 9.0 sacks, including a streak of seven straight games with a sack to set a franchise record.
Underappreciated Career Achievements: WR DK Metcalf
Metcalf recorded 66 catches for a team-high 1,114 yards and eight touchdowns, his third 1,000-yard season in five years, but as good as he was, once again, it feels like he isn't getting quite the praise he should for what he has accomplished five years into his career.
Metcalf, who set a franchise record with 1,303 yards in 2020, has at least 50 catches, 900 yards and six touchdowns in each of his first six seasons, making him one of only three players to hit those three marks in his first five seasons along with Randy Moss and A.J. Green.
Metcalf also has the most receiving yards (5,332), receptions (372) and touchdown catches (43) through five seasons in franchise history. And that's not only a great start to a career as a pass-catcher, it's one of the best five-year stretches in franchise history regardless of experience. For example, Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent's best five-year stretch, which came in Years 8-12, saw him record 353 catches for 5,507 yards and 46 touchdowns. Tyler Lockett, the team's No. 2 all-time receiver behind Largent, had 418 catches over one five-year stretch, and over a different five-year span he maxed out at 5,213 yards and 43 touchdowns. And just for fun, don't forget that Metcalf also hit 22.23 miles per hour on a 73-yard touchdown reception in Dallas, making him the league's fastest ball carrier since Raheem Mostert in Week 2 of the 2022 season.
In other words, Metcalf, who just turned 26 in December, has already put together one of the best five-year spans of any receiver in franchise history.
And while we're on the topic of appreciating career accomplishments of receivers, it's worth noting that with another productive season, Lockett is now the team's second-leading receiver in terms of receptions (612), yards (7,994) and touchdowns (59), trailing only Largent in all three categories.
Unsung Hero: NT Jarran Reed
Like Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed returned in 2023 to the team that drafted him, and like Wagner, Reed's return to Seattle saw him playing at a high level.
While it was Wagner, Love and Witherspoon earning well-deserved Pro-Bowl honors, Reed was also a big contributor to the team's defensive efforts, having one of the most productive seasons of his eight-year career. Reed's 54 tackles were a career-high, while his 7.0 sacks and seven tackles for loss were both the second most in his career following his 2018 season in Seattle in which he had 10.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Best Comeback: LB Jordyn Brooks
When Jordyn Brooks tore his ACL in Week 17 of the 2022 season, it seemed clear he would miss time to start the 2023 season, and that it was only a matter of how much. Yet Brooks was somehow able to make it back for the start of the season, suiting up for the season-opener less than eight months after surgery, a remarkable accomplishment even for a professional athlete.
"It's amazing," Wagner said early in the season after Brooks’ comeback was complete. "I hope we don't just pass on it like this is not a big deal. That's an extremely big deal, something that we should definitely applaud, definitely appreciate, and acknowledge. That's not easy, having that type of injury, coming back and being ready for the first game. I think when he got hurt, I don't think anybody thought he was going to be ready for this first game. To be in that position, looking great, moving great, it's an accomplishment in itself. I really hope we as a world don't just look over like that's an easy thing."
And Brooks didn't just make it back, he was arguably even better in 2023 than he was prior to the injury. Despite several nagging injuries, Brooks started 16 of 17 games, recording 111 tackles, a career-high 4.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and the first interception of his career, which he returned 12 yards for a touchdown.
Best Play, Offense: Drew Lock's game-winning touchdown pass to Jaxon Smith-Njigba on Monday Night Football.
In a season full of dramatic victories, the best might have been Seattle's Week 15 win over the Eagles on Monday Night Football. Needing a win to snap a four-game losing streak and keep their playoff chances alive, the Seahawks were hosting the playoff-bound Eagles minus starting quarterback Geno Smith, and things weren't looking too good after Philadelphia scored to take a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.
Drew Lock, making his second straight start in place of an injured Smith, led a scoring drive to start the fourth quarter that ended with a Jason Myers field goal, then after the defense got a couple of stops in the form of a Julian Love interception and a punt, the Seahawks took over on their own 8-yard line with 1:52 remaining in the game. What followed was an impressive 92-yard drive capped by a great throw by Lock and fingertip grab by Smith-Njigba for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Seahawks the win.
Just about any of the other game-winning touchdowns, including another by Smith-Njigba vs. Cleveland, two by Tyler Lockett (Detroit and Arizona) and one by Colby Parkinson (Tennessee) could have been included here, as could several other spectacular plays, ranging from several Kenneth Walker III runs to Jake Bobo's toe-tapping touchdown against Arizona to Smith-Njigba's one-handed sideline grab on thanksgiving, but for the best combination of skill and significance, it's hard to top the game-winner against the Eagles.
Best Play, Defense: Devon Witherspoon's 97-yard pick-six vs. the Giants.
When Devon Witherspoon jumped in front of a receiver to intercept a Daniel Jones pass on Monday Night Football, it wasn't just a big play in that game, it was something of an announcement to the rest of the NFL of Witherspoon's arrival. After missing part of training camp and the season opener due to injury, Witherspoon played well in his first two games, wins over the Lions and Panthers, but his coming out party came in primetime in a Week 4 win over the Giants.
With the Giants driving late in the third quarter attempting to make it a one-score game, Witherspoon, playing in the slot, perfectly read Jones' intentions, undercut the route, and took off for a 97-yard touchdown, the second longest pick-six in franchise history behind Bobby Wagner's 98-yard score in 2018. Witherspoon also had two sacks and seven tackles in the game, leading to NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Also deserving of a mention here are Julian Love's game-clinching interception against the Eagles and Tre Brown's interception and 40-yard return for a touchdown, which ended a streak of 384 attempts without an interception for Lions quarterback Jared Goff.
Best trend: Late-game heroics.
No, it wasn't your imagination, the 2023 season featured a lot of dramatic finishes, even by the-Seahawks-never-play-a-normal-game standards. While there were some heartbreaking losses, including comeback attempts that came up short in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Dallas, there were also a lot of dramatic victories.
The Seahawks started that trend in Week 2, an overtime win at Detroit that was capped by a Geno Smith touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett, and continued with wins over Cleveland (Smith touchdown pass to Smith-Njigba), Washington (Jason Myers field goal), Philadelphia (Lock pass to Smith-Njigba), Tennessee (Smith pass to Parkinson) and Arizona (Smith touchdown pass and 2-point conversion to Lockett).
With all those late-game heroics, the Seahawks became the first team since 1970 with five game-winning touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime, a feat that not only illustrates how fine the line often is between winning and losing in the NFL, but also the type of poise and resilience the team had to come through in those moments more often than not.
The Seahawks were also the second team in NFL history to have two different quarterbacks throw a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of regulation in back-to-back games, joining the 1999 Dolphins.
Biggest Reason For Optimism In 2024: Young talent on both sides of the ball.
While the season ended with disappointment in missing the postseason, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism moving forward, not the least of which is the young talent on the roster.
Back-to-back strong draft classes have produced multiple Pro-Bowlers (Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen), three AP Rookie of the Year finalists (Woolen, Witherspoon and Kenneth Walker III), and several starters on both sides of the ball, including Woolen, Walker, Witherspoon, tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, outside linebacker Boye Mafe, who had a team-high 9.0 sacks in 2023, guard Anthony Bradford, and several other players making big contributions who could be in line for even bigger roles in 2024 like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zach Charbonnet, Derick Hall, Olu Oluwatimi, Cameron Young, Jerrick Reed III, Dareke Young and Coby Bryant.
In all, the Seahawks had 15 rookies and 22 first or second-year players on their 53-man roster at the end of the season, and 36 of the 53 are 26 or younger.
As Schneider put it, "There's young talent all over the place."
Thing To Fix In 2024: Defensive inconsistencies, especially in the run game.
The Seahawks went into the 2023 season looking to upgrade their run defense, and early on at least, it appeared they had accomplished that goal, holding their first seven opponents to 3.9 yards per carry or fewer, including four games in which opponents averaged 3.2 YPC or worse. Several factors, from the loss of Uchenna Nwosu to a season-ending injury, to poor tackling, to a run of tough opponents, caused the run defense to go the wrong direction in the second half of the season, however, and the Seahawks finished the year ranked 31st in run defense, allowing 138.4 yards per game, and 27th in yards per carry allowed at 4.6. There were other concerns, including, at times, explosive plays allowed in the passing game, and third down defense (the Seahawks ranked 31st in opponent third-down conversion rate), so for the second offseason in a row, the Seahawks are looking to get better on defense, and in particular against the run.
There are plenty of talented pieces in place on defense to give the new coaching staff a good start to work with, but regardless of who takes over and what scheme is used, a top priority heading into 2024 is playing better and more consistent defense.
Check out some of the best players and moments from the 2023 season.