Keep Russ Cookin': Balanced Offense Not Necessary for Russell Wilson's Seahawks

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystDecember 1, 2020

Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson passes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

The idea of winning football games in a specific manner is such an outdated concept, yet certain coaching staffs still feel the need to publicly stress a balanced offensive attack. 

The Seattle Seahawks are Exhibit A despite having Russell Wilson behind center. Head coach Pete Carroll can't let go of what he feels is necessary to replicate the franchise's winning formula over the last decade, even if it's not in the team's best interest. 

Marshawn Lynch isn't on the roster anymore. Wilson isn't a young quarterback in need of a complementary run game, either. Despite both those things, Carroll continues to belabor the point to reporters about being a physical football team instead of evolving with what's available to him:

"Early on [this season] when we didn't have to run the ball much because we were rolling throwing the football, those guys were out there and we almost took it for granted. I'm disappointed about that because that's the element of our football that makes us this style of team that we are and it makes Russ' job different than it is when he has to throw the ball 40 times or 50 times. He certainly can do it and loves doing it and we don't mind doing it, but our football is better shaped when we're balanced and we're attacking you and we can play off of that. It fits the defense; it fits the special teams. It's the statement of the way we play."

To quote Luke Skywalker from The Last Jedi, "Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong."

OK, it's a whole paragraph, but you get the point.

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These Seahawks aren't the same ol' Seahawks. They don't have a game-changing running back, a powerful offensive front or a reliable defense. Seattle's identity is completely different now compared to the organization's heyday, and it starts with Wilson's play. 

Instead of rehashing the old, tired argument of why a traditional, balanced offense is outmoded in a pass-happy league, we'll simply say the Seahawks need to look at Monday's 23-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles to better understand who they really are. 

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

To this day, spread-offense influencer and legendary college football coach Mike Leach still has the best description of what a truly balanced offense should be. 

"I want all of the positions to touch it," he said, per CBS Sports' Ben Kercheval. "There's nothing balanced about 50 percent run, 50 percent pass, because that's 50 percent stupid." 

As if that line isn't good enough, the Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach continued:

"Now, what is balanced is when you have five skill positions ... if all five of them are contributing to the offensive effort in a somewhat equal fashion, then that's balanced. But this notion that, if you hand it to one guy 50 percent of the time and then you throw it to a combination of two guys the other 50 percent, that you're really balanced ... you probably pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that, and people have been doing that for decades. Well, you're delusional."  

No names, please, but there's certainly someone delusional in this discussion, and it's obvious. Seattle's strengths reside in its MVP-caliber quarterback and the league's best pair of starting wide receivers.

Should the Seahawks get their two talented backs involved in game plans? Absolutely. But that just furthers the point Leach made. A balanced attack is about involvement with the quarterback acting as a facilitator. 

Carroll saw the potential of a backfield featuring a now-healthy Chris Carson spelled by the physical stylings of Carlos Hyde. 

"The best, the most obvious illustration is look what we looked like with Carlos and look at him running and attacking the line of scrimmage and hunting guys on the sidelines," the head coach said. "... That toughness that that shows and that impact is what Chris brings. Chris is that. During the night [in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals], I was imagining if we had Carlos and Chris running, what that would be like in terms of the style of play."

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Both should be included. Carson finished fifth last season with 1,230 rushing yards. He's back from a foot injury that cost him a month, and he'll eventually be a much larger part of the scheme. Hyde, meanwhile, is a proven veteran option who continues to run with a renewed sense of purpose after sluggish stops with other franchises. 

Effectiveness isn't achieved through forcing a situation, though. 

Despite Carroll's words about reestablishing the team's identity, the Seahawks didn't run the ball effectively against a porous Eagles defense that ranked fifth-worst against the run entering the contest. Carson and Hyde combined to carry the ball 23 times for 63 yards. The latter averaged only 1.5 yards per carry. 

In 3rd- or 4th-and-short situations, Seattle handed the ball off just once. Hyde was stopped for little gain near the goal line, and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer decided to call upon wide receiver David Moore on the subsequent play, which also backfired. 

A run game won't materialize simply because Carson is back and Carroll wants a ground-and-pound attack. The Seahawks aren't a physical football team anymore. They feature an air-it-out approach capable of creating chunk plays at a moment's notice. 

DK Metcalf is nearly impossible to cover. Well, at least he was Monday night. The second-year wide receiver caught 10 passes for a career-high 177 yards. 

"I lost every 50-50 ball. I let the team down. I gotta play better," Eagles cornerback Darius Slay told reporters after shadowing Metcalf all night. 

The receiver's talents are overwhelming for most defensive backs, even a three-time Pro Bowl honoree like Slay. But a wide receiver is only as good as the person distributing the ball.

Wilson's deep passing has been spectacular. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Seahawks starter completed his seventh pass of at least 40 air yards this season, which is tied for the league lead with the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers. Monday's performance was Wilson's sixth this season with a completion percentage over 70. 

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Sure, the former MVP front-runner experienced a couple of hiccups in November, but he's gotten back on track during Seattle's two-game winning streak. 

Tyler Lockett wasn't even a big part of Monday's outcome, but he's been excellent throughout the season. The multiple offensive threats, including Wilson as a runner, make Seattle dangerous overall despite its shoddy secondary. 

When a unit operates efficiently, it doesn't matter whether it does so running the ball or passing the pigskin. What matters is whether it's moving the chains and scoring points by involving all available playmakers. How a team wins shouldn't matter as long as it does win. 

So let Wilson throw it all over the yard if need be. Hand it to Carson and Hyde as part of the process. Do whatever is necessary to win a division crown and let the postseason run begin.

Whatever happens along the way, Carroll and his staff shouldn't take the ball out of their quarterback's hands based on an antiquated notion of the proper way to claim victories. Let him spread the wealth around and Seattle will be much better off as a result. 

 

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.