No Russell Wilson, bad defense and 2-4 start — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll faces toughest challenge

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RENTON, Wash. — Matt Hasselbeck remembers seeing it all over the place, listening to it all over the place: seven and 9.

It was the top of the 2010 common season, coach Pete Carroll’s first with the Seattle Seahawks and Hasselbeck’s final as Seahawks quarterback. They had simply crushed the St. Louis Rams in Week 17 to assert the NFC West title and turn out to be the primary staff within the Super Bowl period to win its division with a sub.-500 report.

To the dismay of many NFL observers, that meant a first-round assembly with the New Orleans Saints, who had earned a wild-card bid at 11-5 after successful the Super Bowl the earlier season. Talking heads groaned {that a} 7-9 staff did not should win its division, not to mention host a playoff sport.

What’s extra: the Saints had crushed the Seahawks by two touchdowns in New Orleans two months earlier.

“So we knew how good they were,” Hasselbeck, now an analyst at ESPN, recalled this week. “They were really good, and we knew we were 7-9.”

Until Carroll obtained them to consider they weren’t.

“Seven and nine was everywhere and Pete’s slogan was, ‘We are not 7-9. We are zero and zero. And guess what everyone else is? Zero and zero,'” mentioned Hasselbeck, who will probably be inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor after they host New Orleans on Monday night time (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) as 4.5-point underdogs.

“Whether we were naïve to believe it or not, we thought we were zero and zero. We were not 7-9. We were zero and zero, just like everyone else. We believed it. We were in. He had us so focused on it. Maybe we were suckers, but we loved it. We were in on it.”

Eleven years after his staff pulled off one of many best playoff upsets in NFL historical past, Carroll has one other inconceivable process in entrance of him. The Seahawks are 2-4, 4½ video games behind the division-leading Arizona Cardinals and 3½ behind the second-place Los Angeles Rams. They have a suspect defense and a backup quarterback in Geno Smith for at the very least two extra video games, whereas Russell Wilson recovers from finger surgical procedure.

Carroll has confronted his share of adverse teaching challenges in Seattle: rebuilding on-the-fly in 2010, avoiding the pitfalls that may comply with a Super Bowl win, managing the fallout of their devastating Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, transferring on from the Legion of Boom in 2017 and 2018 and turning round a traditionally bad defense in 2020.

What makes this impediment completely different from most of these: Carroll would not have Wilson.

“It’s a challenge,” he mentioned. “I’ve got to lead the charge, and I’m going to kick ass on that.”

‘It’s a really related feeling’

Carroll’s unwavering optimism, even within the face of dire conditions, is rooted in common assurances he used to get from his mom. Rita Carroll’s oft-repeated line to her kids was that “something good is about to happen.”

Linebacker Bobby Wagner believes one thing good is about to occur.

Seattle’s defensive captain is one in all three gamers — Wilson and huge receiver Tyler Lockett are the others — left over from the 2015 Seahawks’ staff that began 2-4. It completed 10-6, earned a wild-card bid and superior to the divisional spherical after Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip-shot area objective in sub-zero Minneapolis.

“I remember everybody on the outside saying our season was over and saying that we had no chance of being good,” Wagner recalled of that 2-4 start. “And I remember us just locking in and focusing. It’s a very similar feeling. I feel like when you watch the games and watch some of the things that we’ve done, I feel like we’re very close and I feel like it’s not like we’re not getting better.

“I’m very assured within the guys that we’ve got. I’m assured that we’re only a couple performs away, only a couple minor tweaks away from being a staff that I do know we could be. So we have simply obtained to lock in. There’s no extra room actually for error for us to … determine these items out.”

That 2015 staff had the Legion of Boom main the league’s top-ranked scoring defense. And it had Wilson, the quarterback who’s led extra game-winning drives within the fourth quarter or extra time than anybody since 2012, the man who has masked so a lot of his staff’s flaws in its post-Super Bowl years, the first motive why you may by no means depend the Seahawks out.

This staff has a defense that confirmed enchancment final week in an extra time loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers however has largely underperformed whereas permitting essentially the most yards within the NFL by way of six video games. It has a very good backup in Smith, who crammed the function of sport supervisor properly whereas rallying Seattle from a 14-0 deficit earlier than dropping a fumble in OT.

It’s Smith’s job for at the very least two extra video games, when Wilson will probably be eligible to return off injured reserve. Carroll has given no timetable on his quarterback’s return, saying if it is bodily doable for Wilson to play in Week 10 at Green Bay following Seattle’s bye, he’ll.

“I definitely feel like we understand what’s at stake,” Wagner mentioned. “It’s important for guys like myself, Russell to make sure the young guys understand that we have been in this position before. Just because we started 2-4, it doesn’t mean that has defined our season. The season is very long. I’m confident that after these two games, the bye week, we’ll be sitting in a very good position.”

‘How can we repair this?’

Carroll, who turned 70 final month, is below contract by way of 2025 after signing an extension final season. Hasselbeck believes that is an vital distinction from the dynamic that struggling groups typically face.

“Usually in a situation where you’re on the quote-unquote hot seat or you’re having one of those terrible years, people are all concerned about their own jobs and it’s more about covering your own butt for your own job than it is about getting it fixed for real,” he mentioned. “I think the nice thing if you’re rooting for Seattle is there’s job security in a big way there. There’s no question about … that kind of thing. So the focus will be on how do we fix this? Similar to last year when everyone was losing their minds on talk radio.”

Hasselbeck was referencing their defensive turnaround, after they went from setting information for futility early to permitting the fewest factors within the NFL over the past seven weeks.

“Pete didn’t really flinch,” Hasselbeck mentioned. “He just got it fixed basically.”

Now, the problems are on each side of the ball. The NFC West is stacked. Wilson is sidelined. And the stakes are raised given the uncertainty about Wilson’s future in Seattle past 2021.

Carroll and the Seahawks want one thing good to occur in a rush.

He pointed to how his gamers rallied in Pittsburgh as proof of how they will deal with such an unfamiliar challenge.

“There’s no choice,” he mentioned after the Steelers’ loss. “Fortunately, we come back on Monday night. We get an extra day. But there are no options. We’ve got to come back and freaking battle. That’s how we do it.”



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