Two days after the Seahawks' saw their season come to an end with a Wild Card playoff loss in Dallas, head coach Pete Carroll met with the media for his end-of-season press conference.
Like his players who cleaned out their lockers a day earlier, Carroll first and foremost expressed frustration that a promising season came to an abrupt end with a 2-point loss to Dallas: "It's just frustrating that we're not playing. That's the whole thing, the finality hits you so square in the face that you don't get to keep going."
But despite being frustrated that his team didn't get the job done on Saturday night, Carroll heads into the offseason feeling good about what his team got done over the course of the entire season and what that means for the future.
"The season was a season of growth, progress and proving and coming to grips with who we are and what we can do, in a great fashion," he said. "It was a marvelous season of work with our guys. It was so much fun to see these guys grow and to see them see the future and go for it and not take a step back at any time as far as how they went about it and took to the challenge. We come out of here with a great feeling about our future… I love this team, I love where we're going and it's going to be more competitive than ever. The roster will continue to be built and constructed to be competitive and bring out the best in our guys."
In addition to feeling good about his team's future, here are seven things we learned from Carroll's press conference Monday:
1. Roster decisions make this "a really difficult time," but the Seahawks have a number of players they hope to retain.
Frank Clark, who recorded 13 sacks in the regular season and one more in the playoffs, just finished the final year of his rookie contract, so he could potentially become a free agent soon if the Seahawks don't use the franchise tag on him prior to the start of the new league year.
Asked about Clark's future, Carroll made it clear that Clark was in the team's plans going forward, but also added that this is a tough time of year for a front office because there are so many different contract situations at play.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Carroll said. "This time of year, we always cite that it's a really difficult time. There's a lot of stuff that has to take place, there's a lot of business. John (Schneider) has a master plan of carrying this thing out. He's got a schedule and calendar of all kinds of stuff that he's working. Already, we're well into it. There's a strategy and a plan to carry this out. And our guys know, we've communicated with everybody, we're on-going and there's a process to this, and it takes a long time. There's free agency coming up, there's our own contracts that we're dealing with, there's the draft coming up—all of that stuff is all what's at hand right now this time of year. We're really good at doing this and we're going to carry it out with a real plan and a strategy to make us as strong as we possibly can. The other side of that, the individual questions about guys and stuff, we can't go into any of that right now."
As for Clark in particular, Carroll said when asked if Clark will be back next season, "I'm counting on it. Counting on it… We want Frankie to be with us. We've got some contract issues that we're going to be dealing with and discussions that will go on for months now."
Two other key parts of Seattle's defense for a number of years are headed towards free agency, linebacker K.J. Wright and safety Earl Thomas.
On Wright, Carroll said, "We'd love to have K.J. back with us. That's one of the many issues… He's been a fantastic player for us for years in every way. In every way. He's been a leader, he's been tough, he's been here, he's been consistent, his messaging. Everything he stands is what we love about him and would love for him to be here throughout."
On Thomas, who went on injured reserve after sustaining a leg injury in Week 4, Carroll said, "We'll see what happens. Earl's a great player. I don't know what that means for the contract and all that stuff, but that's one of the issues. We've got a bunch of them."
Both of Seattle's starting guards, J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker, also fall into the category of soon-to-be free agents.
"We'd love to keep those guys with us," Carroll said. "We'd love to do that."
Additionally, the Seahawks have two of their top players heading into the final year of their contracts, quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Carroll was not asked specifically about Wagner, but when asked if Wilson could be extended before the start of next season, Carroll said, "We talked about all of that, yeah. Russ and I met and we talked about the future. We are talking about where we are going and what we want to get done. And that's very much in our plans."
2. The offense took a big step forward in 2018.
While the Seahawks offense struggled at times on Saturday, most notably on third down and in the running game, they head into 2019 feeling good about their play on that side of the ball given all they accomplished over the course of the season. Despite a slow start to the season, the Seahawks finished the year with the league's No. 1 rushing offense and scored the second most points in franchise history. From Week 10 to the end of the regular season, the Seahawks averaged 30.0 points per game, second in the NFL to Kansas City, and made 73 explosive plays (runs of 12 or more yards, passes of 16 or more), which was tied with the Chiefs for the most in the league during that span. That offensive surge included a number of individual standouts, including Russell Wilson, who had arguably the best season of his career, throwing a team-record 35 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions; running back Chris Carson, who became Seattle's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014; and Tyler Lockett, who set career highs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, with Wilson posting a perfect passer rating for the entire season when targeting him.
"We had a hell of a season," Carroll said of the offense. "We did a bunch of good stuff and we're just getting started. That's what it feels like… "I think it's all out there for us. We have a formidable running attack because of the guys up front, the mentality that we're going at it with, and the running back group. This is an excellent room that Chad Morton's coaching. He's got guys that can do all kinds of different things, so we know that's a great strength and we have a quarterback that you can absolutely count on. He doesn't turn the football over, he makes big plays, he throws touchdown passes, he can control the whole game now. This year was the year that Russ really took a step forward, in control of what's happened across the board—run, pass, the whole thing. He's able to change plays, he did it on the goal line to score the touchdown. There's multiple examples of that that we've just taken a big jump forward. We need to capitalize on that and get better at all aspects of that because we've got to get great at what we're doing."
3. Doug Baldwin had "a heroic season."
The offense put up all those big numbers in 2018 despite playing three games without Pro-Bowl receiver Doug Baldwin, and almost every other game with Baldwin dealing with some sort of injury. While Baldwin's final numbers weren't great by his standard, it was an incredibly impressive season in other ways as he battled through injuries to both knees, his hip, groin, elbow and shoulder.
"I thought it was a heroic season for Doug," Carroll said. "It was so hard for him because it was so different. He's never missed anything, maybe there was a couple of days in practice in years past, but he had to deal with that and he had to find a way and a mode he could get through the weeks and prep. I don't mean to feel sorry for him, but it was a challenge for him. It was a new way of looking at the world and he had to shift gears and all that. I thought he finished in tremendous fashion and made all of the plays. He came through and was huge down the stretch here, and I was really happy that he could recapture the feeling of being a big part of the club and what was going on and being able to factor like he pictures. He's an incredible player."
4. Carroll isn't expecting any big changes to his coaching staff.
Following the 2018 season, Carroll made a number of changes to his coaching staff, most notably replacing his offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and offensive line coach. While some changes could happen this year, particularly if opportunities come up for assistant coaches due to the number of coaching changes around the NFL, Carroll doesn't expect significant turnover this year.
"There are a lot of changes the league happening, so who knows," Carroll said. "I don't know what is going to happen. We will see how that goes, but we don't anticipate any major changes.''
5. Kam Chancellor made an impact despite not being able to play.
Kam Chancellor could not play in 2018 due to a neck injury sustained last season, but he was still around the team quite a bit, coming to some practices and games, including some road games. And while the Seahawks didn't have Chancellor's intimidating presence between the lines, he still helped make a young defense better.
"I loved having him around," Carroll said. "Every time he was with us on the road late in the season, I just loved him being with us, because he is a steadying force. He's one of those guys who helps other people perform better and feel more confident and feel better about themselves. He has a way of doing that, so he was very helpful, and I hope that we can keep him close to the program. He's got great input."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks Wild Card game against the Dallas Cowboys.
6. Germain Ifedi improved a lot, and the offensive line as a whole should continue to improve next season.
In his third season in the NFL and second playing right tackle, Germain Ifedi improved arguably as much as anybody on the roster, and was a big part in the overall growth of the line under Mike Solari, one of those aforementioned coaching changes made last year.
"He had a good year," Carroll said. "He improved throughout the year. He was very steady. He really took to Mike and (Brennan Carroll)'s coaching. They worked with him to make sure he was working to improve the whole time, and his attitude towards getting better technique-wise and scheme-wise. He's a legit player."
With Ifedi and the rest of the line playing its first season under Solari, they should only improve with another offseason working together in a new system.
"He's just growing, learning, knows what he can do and what he can't do better, and he's much more consistent," Carroll said of Ifedi. "He came out of the season physically in great shape, so he should have a terrific offseason and should come raring back again. We should count on those guys up front to be really good now. They should be improved and just a step forward with the system and all the things we asked them to do differently. They'll be better, and he certainly will too."
7. The Seahawks will have an eye on the new Alliance of American Football.
When talking about player development, Seahawks general manager John Schneider has mentioned a few times how the loss of NFL Europe has made things harder on players and teams, particularly at positions like quarterback and offensive line. So while the Alliance of American Football, a new league that launches next month, isn't affiliated with the NFL like NFL Europe was, teams like the Seahawks will still keep an eye on players from that league.
"That's a good topic right now," Carroll said. "We're all kind of excited about it. We're going to take it in and do the evaluations where they allow us to, when we can see them and all of that. We'll do all the film work. We'll do everything. We'll break these guys down. We'll take it as a whole other aspect of the feeding system to give us information. The only way we know how to do it is fully go for it. We're going to really embrace the whole setup. It's an exciting venture as always. We think it's necessary. We think it's a necessary opportunity that has been created and we're really excited to see where turns out. We're going to learn stuff. We're going to learn about these guys and some of them are going to play. I think it's great. I hope it works out."
The Seahawks cleaned out their lockers and exchanged jerseys, helmets, and footballs with teammates at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Sunday, January 6, 2019 following Seattle's Wild Card playoff loss to the Cowboys in Dallas to close out the 2018 NFL season.