At 2-3, Pete Carroll has the Seattle Seahawks back on the right track after three straight weeks of good football. The players are finally starting to make adjustments to the adversity just as Carroll had hoped.
However, another 1-3 slide will likely put this season out of reach—even by moral standards. Carroll must make some major adjustments of his own if the team is to continue gaining confidence—and victories.
If he does not, much of the good will and progress gained over his tenure as Seahawks coach will be at risk.
61 yards would have been a record kick at CenturyLink Field.
Normally this would not be the kind of thing one would say to an NFL head coach, but Pete Carroll is one of a kind—for better or for worse.
Carroll has been known to double as a cheerleader during games, but of far greater consequence are the decisions he makes when he gets a little too excited.
Two weeks ago at home the Seahawks had a chance to steal a victory from the Atlanta Falcons as time expired, but instead of attempting a 4th down conversion that would have put Steven Hauschka in a more realistic FG range, Carroll decided to attempt a 61-yard try—into the windy side of a stadium that has never seen a kick longer than 55.
Some, including Carroll, would argue that it is better to risk it all just once, rather than having to do it twice. But if you consider that only nine kicks in the history of the NFL have ever been made in excess of 60 yards, and that none of those were by Steven Hauschka at CenturyLink Field, it does seem a little naive.
Since joining the Seahawks, Carroll has established a tenuous track record while managing the game in crucial situations. He must be more prudent for his team in the future.
Carroll has a way with words.
Coaches constantly preach about accountability to their players. Carroll needs to do a better job of admitting his gaffes—such as the previously mentioned 61-yard FG attempt, to which he said, "I'm not looking back at it."
Carroll has shown a strong desire to dictate his own fate, sometimes at the expense of responding appropriately to the situation at hand. This is fine in theory, but more often than not his bravado has gotten him into trouble in Seattle, where he does not hold a recruiting or talent advantage to offset the risks he takes.
During his tenure, and more and more recently, Carroll has been largely unapologetic about his questionable calls—falling back on his "Win Forever" rhetoric.
Fans would respect his choices better if we knew he actually gave them a second thought, such as after Week 3 of last season when he squandered the game-clock by calling a run instead of a pass on the Seahawks last offensive play of the game. This effectively robbed the Seahawks of a chance to put the game out of reach on what would have been a very manageable field goal attempt: "I got a little bold with our situation."
That's our Pete.
Tarvaris Jackson finds a familiar horizontal position.
There's a reason that it's called a "Pro Style" offense. The game has evolved at this level out of necessity—there are no accidents. Why then, Pete Carroll ran Tarvaris Jackson out of the "option" last week is a mystery. It was only one play, but it was long enough to injure his starting quarterback for the indefinite future.
Designed runs for the quarterback should be left in the college ranks, where the quarterback is often one of the best athletes on the field. In the NFL, only the rarest of QB specimens has true toughness as a runner, and even then the risk usually does not outweigh the reward.
Just ask Matt Hasselbeck circa 2010, after Carroll called a QB sneak on 4th-and-1 at the Cardinal's 16 with 1:10 left in the game against Arizona. Not only did they fail to convert, but Hasselbeck broke his wrist on the play and had to wear a cast for the rest of the season.
Pete Carroll pulled Brandon Browner out of the shadow of the CFL because he had a reputation for press coverage. While the rookie CB has shown glimpses, especially against bigger receivers (Browner himself is 6'4"), he has also been a penalty-waiting-to-happen when on the field.
Through five games Browner has been flagged three times for defensive holding, twice for pass interference, once for illegal contact, and once for roughing the kicker.
Many of these plays wiped out otherwise stalwart efforts by the Seahawks defense. Carroll—a former defensive back and a defensive-minded coach—must find a way to get the most out of Browner without getting too much of Browner, as has been the case.
Carroll loves to press, and nobody on the Seahawks roster has the potential to succeed in press coverage like Browner. But he must learn to keep his hands off the receivers after five yards, as he's consistently being caught red-handed.
If Carroll wants to make this look like a smart pickup he has to get Browner to focus. Last week's game-clinching 94-yard pick six is a good start—and one that vaulted his WPA (Win Probability Added) higher than all but one other CB in the entire league at .69.
Browner has potential, but consistency will be the key. Carroll must be the one to both evoke and demand it.