The Seattle Seahawks nearly reached a crisis point before the 2021 season even began.
Russell Wilson, the team’s franchise player and one of the league’s premier quarterbacks, nearly pushed his way out of town over frustrations with the direction of the offense and the roster. A trade never materialized and both sides have mostly downplayed the situation in public, but the tension led to questions regarding the Seahawks’ long-term plans and the efficacy of head coach Pete Carroll’s approach to game management.
While Wilson remains in Seattle, other key parts of the team have left. The Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to seemingly placate their quarterback, replacing him with Los Angeles Rams assistant Shane Waldron. The move has the potential to unleash Wilson and the passing game but only if Carroll can resist the urge to pull back on the reins.
12-4, 1st in NFC West
Points: 23.6 points per game, rank 16th
Yards: 5.4 yards per play, rank 10th (tied with 2 teams)
Football Outsiders ranking: 16th
Points: 28.2 points per game, rank 7th
Yards: 5.7 yards per play, rank 12th (tied with 4 teams)
Football Outsiders ranking: 6th
Super Bowl: +2500
AFC/NFC Champion: +1100
Win Total: 10 (Over +100, Under -120)
Challenged by a dissatisfied superstar quarterback to improve his pass protection, the Seahawks acquired veteran guard Gabe Jackson in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. Jackson’s arrival might not move the needle considerably in the eyes of fans, but his presence should solidify the interior of the offensive line. The team also retained and added more weapons around Wilson, re-signing lead running back Chris Carson, drafting wideout D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round, and signing tight end Gerald Everett in free agency. Everett’s arrival makes plenty of sense given his ties to Waldon from their shared time with the Rams.
But while the offense added more talent than it lost, the defense went in the other direction. Top cornerback Shaquill Griffin left for a lucrative contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars during free agency and veteran linebacker K.J. Wright remains unsigned following the expiration of his deal. The Seahawks signed Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desir in addition to drafting Tre Brown to help fill the void, but the defense looks weaker than it did in 2020.
Biggest question entering training camp
How much will Carroll’s antiquated approach to offense hamper Waldron’s play-calling? While most of the offensive coaches that have come out of the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay system have paid more than mere lip service to the run game, they take that approach to set up shots through play-action. The Seahawks thrived off play-action during the first half of the 2020 season when they used it frequently, but Carroll eventually put his foot on the break. How much leash Waldron receives could determine whether Wilson puts this offseason’s friction to bed or pushes harder for a trade next year.
What needs to happen for the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl?
If the Seahawks protect Wilson well and lean more heavily on play-action, the offense can return to its early 2020 dominance. They’ll also need something approaching competence from a defense that hasn’t exhibited consistently solid play in several seasons.
The Seahawks remain frisky so long as they have Wilson under center, and the veteran quarterback hasn’t missed a start in his NFL career. But he has also wilted during the playoffs since the team’s last Super Bowl appearance seven seasons ago, and the defense hasn’t helped. In a stacked division that includes two of the last three clubs to win the NFC Championship, Seattle’s 2021 will likely look a lot like their last few campaigns.