After General Manager Tim Ruskell was released from the Seattle organization in December, it was clear the Seahawks were headed for a makeover.
The first major change was the firing of first-year coach Jim Mora. Apparently the front office didn’t feel a 5-11 record warranted a second chance.
In a surprise move, the team landed Pete Carroll, the long-time USC wheel-man, as a successor.
The move wasn’t met with overwhelming approval by fans and media personnel, alike. Carroll’s departure came after allegations of recruiting violations and a mediocre season. Some believe his flight to Seattle was a cop-out from the consequences that awaited USC in the offseason.
There was also speculation that Seattle violated the Rooney Rule, a preventative measure that holds each team responsible for interviewing a minority candidate for the head coach position and any similar front-office position.
However, it was later discovered that the team had extended an offer to Tony Dungy to become the new team president, an offer Dungy declined.
Carroll’s credentials at the professional level were also questionable. He served a one-year stint as the head coach for the New York Jets in ’94, but a fruitless season prevented a return for a second season.
Carroll took a break from the NFL and gave it another go in ’97 when he coached the New England Patriots for three years. He was marginal at best, earning a 48-27 record and a playoff berth.
Carroll always claimed he was dealt an unfair hand by both organizations. Any coach will tell you a year is never long enough to truly make a difference (cue Jim Mora), but in Carroll’s case, that’s all the Jets needed to see.
In New England, Carroll’s influence on personnel changes and overall control of the team was limited, prohibiting him from making the necessary adjustments needed to take the team in the right direction.
Now, Carroll is headed to Seattle for one more chance, and this time he will have no excuses. The team is currently without a GM, and Carroll will most likely have a direct influence on whom the organization chooses to hire; you can bet it will be someone who will allow Carroll to make the final decisions regarding personnel.
The team also stands in a good position to make an impact with the draft. They own the sixth and the 14th picks in a class dominated by physical defenders and explosive play-makers on the offensive side.
Owner Paul Allen isn’t afraid to spend money, either. In an uncapped year without restrictions on the ‘Hawks’ player transactions, the team stands to vastly improve their current squad.
With a new coach comes a new staff, most of them being former assistants of Carroll when he was at USC. The first to follow was Jeremy Bates, the quarterback coach at USC and former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator.
Bates was strongly pursued by a number of teams, namely the Chicago Bears, but ultimately felt he had more job security playing under his old coach in Seattle. He was instrumental in bringing in and bringing up former Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, and then later had similar success at USC with Matt Leinart and, more recently, Matt Barkely.
Whomever ends up taking snaps for Seattle next year will have one of the best coordinators calling his plays.
Next to follow was Alex Gibbs, the illustrious offensive line coach who spent a considerable amount of time playing under Mike Shanahan in Denver.
He spent a short time there in the mid-'80s but truly blossomed as a coach there from 1995-2003. During that time, Gibbs’ offensive line set a number of franchise records including total yards (6,554 in 2000), most first downs (383 in 2000), most rushing yards (2,468 in 1998), and most rushing touchdowns (32 in 1998).
His offensive line also flourished in pass protection. From 1995-2000, the line didn’t allow more than 35 sacks per season. His line was also instrumental in blocking for NFL MVP Terrell Davis, who rushed for over 2,000 yards in ’98.
After two mediocre years in Houston, Gibbs is set to continue his legacy and establish a successful zone-blocking scheme in Seattle.
Ken Norton Jr., the USC linebacker coach, has also opted to follow Carroll to Seattle. Norton is relatively new to coaching in the NFL, but he has experienced great success at the collegiate level, delivering high-quality linebackers like Clay Matthews Jr. and Brian Cushing to the NFL.
There will be more new faces to come in the next few weeks, but for now, the Seattle coaching staff is looking like it has the capabilities to fill the big shoes of ex-coach Mike Holmgren, one of the most popular Seahawks coaches, ever.
I don’t think anyone has dreams of Seattle making the playoffs in the coming year, but I think it’s clear they’re in a position to exhibit tangible progression. If the team can acquire some consistency at the offensive line, Matt Hasselback could easily return to starting quarterback status.
One of the controversies last year facing the team was the absence of running back Justin Forsett. He received limited snaps behind ineffective starter Julius Jones.
The arrival of Carroll, Bates, and their high-octane offense, should give Forsett a chance to shine.
The Seahawks possess a young, quick, and physical defensive squad with miles of potential. If their strengths can be utilized to fit the new system, I believe Seattle has a chance to seriously contend in a weak NFC West within at least two years.
A new General Manager is expected soon, and with him will come further changes.
Lately, there have been talks that Seattle may attempt to steal wide receiver Brandon Marshall from an inevitable Denver tender and/or transition tag. They have the draft picks and the money to make such an acquisition, but it’s unclear if Denver is willing to let that happen.
The pieces in Seattle seem to be moving in the right direction. It will inevitably rest on Carroll’s shoulders whether or not the team finds success as execution always holds precedence over planning.