The Seahawks saw their 2022 season come to an end in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and a day after that loss to the 49ers, players were already looking ahead with optimism about the team's future even as they still were still processing a season-ending loss.
A day later, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had a similar forward-looking approach as he held his end-of-season press conference. In addition to providing some injury updates on Jamal Adams, Jordyn Brooks and others, here are five takeaways from Carroll's Monday press conference:
1. The Seahawks head into the offseason feeling like they have a lot of momentum.
Losing to a division rival in the playoffs is never a fun experience for a football team, but the Seahawks won't let Saturday's loss to the 49ers deter them from looking ahead to what should be a very bright future. After exceeding external expectations to win nine games and reach the playoffs, the Seahawks believe they laid the foundation for a lot of success next year and beyond, especially with last year's draft class making such big contributions, and with so much draft capital at their disposal this offseason, including the No. 5 overall pick and four picks in the first two rounds.
"Coming out of this building yesterday with all these guys and the meetings that we had, and all of the opportunities to connect with guys, this is this is a new place for us," Carroll said. "Really, this is a different feeling After losing the last game, which is always the curse in the league, it has its way of kind of manifesting, and we've been through all of that. Our guy just feel like we're getting started. This is what it feels like, and they're excited about it, they're encouraged about it. The coaches feel like that, personnel feels like that, fueled by the big transition we made last year and all of the elements that come along with that, it's factored in, we can feel it. Going into the draft, we can feel it, there's a momentum about it, and hopefully we'll be able to cash in. Also, last year's draft being so effective for us, the hopes are really high that we can tag on to that one and keep building.
The Seahawks of course wanted their season to continue, and believed they could get that done, especially when they led the 49ers by a point at halftime and trailed by only six points heading into the fourth quarter. But despite that game getting away from them in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks won't let that one loss discourage them going into an offseason full of promise.
"Nine-and-eight and losing the last game here in the playoffs, being in the last game at halftime—we were ready to go win the game, and we just couldn't get quite get together in the fourth quarter, but it's 23-17 at the end of three (quarters), and we had all of the thoughts and focus that it was going to turn our way, and we didn't get that done," Carroll said. "But that's not enough to knock us off the mentality of it all."
2. Carroll and general manager John Schneider are "pretty fired up" about what they can add in the draft.
Because of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver last March, the Seahawks head into the draft with the No. 5 overall pick, via Denver, their own No. 1 pick, which will be 19 or 20 depending on the result of Tampa Bay's playoff game against Dallas, as well as a pair of second-rounders, the first of which will be near the top of the round.
That presents the Seahawks an opportunity to add talent that just doesn't come around for teams very often, and it's one Carroll and general John Schneider are very excited about.
"I'm pretty fired up about it, really," he said. "I know John is too. "... The first four picks, that's an enormous opportunity for us, so we'll see what we can make of that. It's very positive."
Carroll noted that having a pick as high as No. 5 presents a different opportunity than the Seahawks have had in past drafts—they did pick as high as sixth overall once, taking Russell Okung in 2010, but in general most of Seattle's first-round picks under Carroll and Schneider have been near the end of the round.
"For John, this is a dream opportunity here, and he's pumped about it," Carroll said. "We've had enough experience together and with our guys in our system, that we're wide open with what the options could be. Whether it's the players at the top or the top or opportunities to move or whatever it is, we've done all of it to some extent. We've never chosen this high, but we were pretty close way back when in the first year. We're ready for this. (Schneider) is so steeped into it right now, so we'll be listening. We'll be listening and looking and watching. We'll never turn down a competitive opportunity, as you know, so we'll be in on everything. I'm excited to watch John do his thing."
3. The 2022 rookie class "will be so much further ahead" next season.
The Seahawks had three rookies who were every-down players throughout the season, cornerback Tariq Woolen, who earned Pro-Bowl honors, and tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas. Three more rookies were starters or saw significant playing time throughout the year on offense or defense in nickel corner Coby Bryant, running back and 1,000-yard rusher Kenneth Walker III and outside linebacker Boye Mafe. Receiver Dareke Young also was a big contributor on special teams and saw his role increase on offense late in the season, while undrafted rookie Joey Blount was a core special teams player before an injury cut his season short. In all, that's eight rookies making significant contributions, with six of them starting or playing big roles on offense and defense.
All of those contributions were a big factor in Seattle's 2022 success, but what is also important going forward is how all of that experience will help the team moving forward.
"It's very, very fortunate for our guys to have this much exposure this early in their careers," Carroll said. "There's so much to be gained. In the midst of the first season of young guys playing, it's just a monster of issues and concerns, and what will happen is all the noise will quiet for them and their vision will expand and things will slow down, and all of those normal things that happen are such a valuable gain for us as a group. And it's not just going to happen to one guy, we have a number of guys on our team. There are four or five guys on defense, and there are three or four guys on offense that will all come back, and they will be vets as they turn the corner. It doesn't mean that they will have their game altogether, but they will be so much further ahead. It's hard to describe to you guys how much clearer things will look, and how they will feel like, 'How did I not know this and survive the season?' Hopefully, we can really navigate those each individual players to gain the most that they could possibly gain from this good experience that they have had. It's so valuable that they had all of this play time."
4. The defensive inconsistencies are "killing" Carroll.
The Seahawks played very well on defense in stretches during the 2022 season, most notably during a four-game winning streak midway through the year, as well as late in the regular season, but there were other times they struggled, particularly against the run, and the Seahawks saw their season end after giving up 505 yards and far too many big plays to the 49ers.
"We didn't play well enough, we just didn't do well enough," Carroll said. "There are too many things that we didn't get sharp at, we kind of went in waves. We caught back up and then we kind of dipped back down, but then we caught back up again. The consistency wasn't there, and I totally have to own that. This is me not getting it right fast enough. We can fix some problems, we are good at that, but then we weren't complete in getting the issues solved. We weren't as clean as we needed to be at the line of scrimmage, we didn't fit as well we needed to, and we made too many small errors that ended up being huge things. The 49ers game was a great example, the big run, we just messed it up and didn't fit it right. There were too many of those, so the inconsistencies, that's the part that I have to really be effective at helping. We have to clean things up, we have to get sharp, and we have to get back to where we can effectively play the running game."
While the issues weren't all the same, this wasn't a one-year problem for the Seahawks, something that's "killing me. It's killing me," Carroll acknowledged.
One of the biggest solutions, Carroll says, is to improve up front. Some of that can come from coaching and schematic adjustments, but the Seahawks also know they need to add to that group as well.
"We are going to have to become more dynamic up front, we have to," he said. "We've kind of been in the same mode, we have to get more production out of the guys, they have to be more of a factor. We need to make the position really competitive, if we can. We will see what we can do… We need guys to be an issue for the opponents, so schematically, we help them, but physically, they have to do their thing too. We are competing to get better."
5. Geno Smith "played terrific football" this season, and Carroll wants him to be part of the Seahawks' future.
Of all the reasons why the Seahawks were able to get back to the playoffs in 2022, one of the biggest was the play of Geno Smith, who earned Pro-Bowl honors for the first time in his career after starting for the first time in eight seasons. Smith led the NFL in completion percentage, was among the league leaders in passer rating and touchdown passes, and set multiple franchise passing records.
"We have said the same thing so many times because it has been so obvious to talk about him, but it's a great story what he did and what he accomplished," Carroll said. "He played terrific football. How about coming out against the 49ers, on the road and he was 9-10 in the first half. He was on his stuff. He had an excellent game for us in that game, even though the turnovers happened, he played really well. It was just to show you again, that he's on it.
Smith, of course, played this season on a one-year deal, meaning he will become a free agent when the new league year begins if he and the Seahawks don't get a deal done before then, or if Seattle doesn't use the franchise tag. And while there's still plenty to sort out there, Carroll is planning on Smith being part of the team's future.
"We've got our guy," Carroll said. "We need to hopefully work things out so he is with us; there is business to be done there, of course, but there is no lid on what we can do. The sky's the limit. That along with returning him with his leadership factor that he had, he's a big deal to us. I just couldn't be more tickled by the way the whole thing turned out and how he handled it. Really, as we look to the future, he is a big part of why we are looking to future so promisingly."
The Seahawks cleaned out their lockers at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton a day after their 2022 season ended in a Wild Card loss to the 49ers.