All offseason long, every single move the Seattle Seahawks made with coaching changes, free agent signings, and draft picks seemed geared towards re-establishing a strong run game.
As a central part of coach Pete Carroll’s philosophy, he believed the Seahawks had swayed away from the identity that helped guide the team to six straight playoff appearances and back-to-back Super Bowl berths. Week after week, he’s preached the value of a strong rushing attack and how much it impacts Seattle’s offensive success.
Through two games, however, Seattle hasn’t even made the concerted effort to run the football as expected, as new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been far too quick to abandon the ground game in close games. And Carroll has once again made a mockery of his “always compete” mantra, failing to play the running back who rightfully earned a starting role.
Carroll is human and he’s far from perfect, but his explanations for why Seattle didn’t give running back Chris Carson a single carry during the second half of last night’s loss to Chicago have gone from perplexing to infuriating.
Initially questioned about Carson’s absence following the game, Carroll indicated he got “gassed” on Monday night due to playing special teams. The Seahawks did have a number of linebackers and safeties inactive, so such a response would've made a tiny bit of sense if it was true.
The problem with this answer? Based on snap counts, Carson only played two snaps on punt coverage. Two snaps.
Carroll backtracked during his Monday radio show on ESPN 710, saying he was “off” and didn’t realize that special teams coordinator Brian Schneider had removed Carson from coverage teams since he was running the ball well.
Carroll simply said “I just missed it.”
You just missed it? How can you misread a 240-pound running back who looks like he was carved out of stone by the Greek gods and come to the judgment he’s “gassed” when he hasn’t seen the field the entire second half? Nothing adds up here.
Seattle opened last night’s game by giving Carson the football on three straight plays. He picked up 13 yards and moved the chains for a first down, only to receive three more carries the remainder of the game. Most startingly, he didn’t touch the football after the 11:51 mark in the second quarter, quite the indictment on a coaching staff that has looked woefully unprepared the first two games of the season.
Carroll clearly doesn’t have adequate lines of communication with his staff, as showcased by his lack of knowledge that Schneider took Carson off special teams in the second half. As a head coach, he's required to stay on top of what's happening with all three sides of the football and such ignorance doesn't look good at all on his part.
It’s also becoming more apparent his recent comments about Carson pulling away from Penny for the starting role lacked teeth, as he’s gone out of his way to play the first-round pick despite little production from him to this point.
Always compete? Right…
Penny has a bright future and did some nice things during Seattle’s brief run of actually looking like an NFL-caliber offense in the fourth quarter, but what has he done to earn playing time ahead of Carson?
One back was healthy and productive the entire preseason, while the other was not. One back has averaged nearly six yards per carry this year, while the other barely has more than two yards per carry. One has excelled in pass protection, the other one is still learning how to do it after rarely blocking in college. It’s not comparable.
If Seattle simply wants Penny to be the feature back because the team used a first-round pick on him, shame on Carroll and his staff for not playing the best player regardless of draft position. If he came in and lit it up in game action, then such a move would be much more understandable, but as it stands, the far more productive player has been on the sidelines far too frequently.
Only two weeks into the season, there’s still time for the Seahawks to rectify this situation. Based on Carson’s demeanor on the sidelines, he seemed to be understanding of the team’s game plan in the second half and remained upbeat cheering on his team. There doesn’t seem to be a hidden injury or any other issues.
But the improper management of Seattle's backfield could create potential divisions in the locker room, as Carroll’s competition philosophy has already been under fire this offseason and players have openly raved about Carson over the past several months. Hell, Carroll himself hasn’t been able to contain his excitement about how great he’s looked. If the best player isn’t playing, Carroll could lose his team quickly.
After losing two close games that easily could have been victories, Carroll has to look in the mirror and reassess how he’s managing his football team. If he wants to run the ball, then tell Schottenheimer to stick with running the ball and give the bulk of the carries to the player who won the right to be the bell cow back this season.