He was called a madman. An old head whose time had passed him by. A stale coach in need of a different team. But Pete Carroll had a vision in place. One with a near 50-50 pass-run split. One with star quarterback Russell Wilson throwing just 25-30 pass attempts. One where his defense led and his quarterback followed suit.
It was definitely a misguided vision in years past—running into brick walls against Dallas in the 2018 divisional round comes to mind as one of Carroll’s less fine moments—but much like a quarterback, it seems what Carroll needed to maximize his plan was the right offensive coordinator and a few extra personnel pieces to match.
After an efficient, balanced, and plain dominant Week 1 win in Indianapolis, it looks like new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is exactly that guy to unlock Carroll’s masterplan—and the rest of the league should be very scared as a result.
Whereas in years past every run felt like a needless attempt to divert pressure off of Wilson’s shoulders—coincidentally only digging him into a deeper hole later on—“establishing the run” against the Colts on Sunday felt like a breath of fresh air. Using patented fly sweeps with D’Wayne Eskridge, just like he did with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles, while also introducing plenty of quick game action with tight ends, Waldron struck balance and unloaded off of Wilson’s shoulders in a multitude of ways. It wasn’t just Chris Carson fighting four guys up the middle on an HB dive on 2nd-and-long. First and second down plays that were used to gain easy yards had a purpose—they weren’t just thrown in to satisfy Carroll’s insistence on balance.
Of course, the vertical shots and “moon balls” were still there for Wilson—as they also were with former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer—but the improvement in the quick game, Waldron’s decisions on when to take his shots, the overall rushing diversity, and Wilson’s ability to frequently target his tight ends (a major weakness of his in year’s past) just felt so much different than in years past.
What also felt different was Seattle’s defensive line, which for the first time since the Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett days finally has a ferocious pass-rush capable of playing into Seattle’s efficient and balanced offense.
“Letting Russ cook” failed in a fairly spectacular way to end last season mainly because of three things: a defense that often led Seattle to be down and desperate early, the inability to throw easy short-yardage completions on early downs to get ahead of the chains, and a major lack of offensive weapons outside of D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Carson.
Well, after grabbing a new offensive coordinator and loading the pass-rush on defense, as well adding versatile chess pieces in Gerald Everett (a HUGE X-factor) and Eskridge (a key creative component to the run game), Seattle has adjusted in all three areas. Plus, it’s allowed Carroll to go back to his Super Bowl-winning formula in the process.
Of course, not every game will be as easy as Sunday for Seattle in the future. There will be games where Carroll will need to abandon his “balanced” core philosophy and will need to “let Russ cook” with loads of passing attempts when they get behind. After all, there’s a reason that Wilson has fallen off after the first 10 or so weeks seemingly every year. Things go haywire and he tries to do too much by himself. But now with this quick-passing game looking improved, easier hot reads built into the offense on blitz attempts, and the overall defense looking much better, those overwhelming moments are going to be much easier for Wilson—something Carroll’s “balance” plan this entire time has been about.
Yes, it looked outdated for years—and with his old pieces in place it certainly was—but after adjusting to what “balance” means in his attempt to take some pressure off of Wilson, Carroll may just have been right all along.
It’s one game, but the early returns on this new Seattle offense are overwhelmingly positive and, I can’t believe I'm saying this, Seattle’s staff is definitely near the top of who to thank.