Last Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks were bounced from the Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs by everyone’s conference rival the Dallas Cowboys. It wasn’t so much of a loss as it was a forfeit. Ignore the fact that the 24-22 score was close – this game should have been a walk in the park for Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. Instead, a commitment to his inefficient, head-in-the-sand offensive philosophy left the 12s wonder what the 2018 season could have been – and what fresh horrors await for the remainder of Pete Carroll’s tenure. Although not on the level of the 2012/2013 squads, this is still a strong roster. The offensive game planning is all that’s holding this team back.
For an honest analysis, we’ll turn to Warren Sharp’s ever-excellent work as we break down the Seahawks’ self-inflicted demise. Sharp’s evidently in a unique position to educate us on this matchup. On his Wild Card Round podcast with Evan Silva and Dr. David Chao, it was insinuated that Sharp was hired by the Dallas Cowboys around Week 10 to provide them with advanced data on their matchups. He is intimately familiar with the Cowboys’ strengths and deficiencies – as the Seahawks should have been ahead of this game.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Sharp delves into how the Seahawks might’ve approached this game in a superior manner. Both his pre- and post-game data held true. Through the month of December, Dallas boasted a Top 5 defensive run game unit. Against the pass? Dallas ranged from middling to near league-worst in the various defensive passing metrics. There were a clear-cut right and wrong ways of attacking this defense: Throw the ball with your future Hall of Fame quarterback, early and often. The previous sentence is to be taken literally – throw the ball on early downs frequently, in the first half. It’s been clearly shown over the last few years, teams that throw the ball on early downs (especially in the first half) win more football games than those who run – this isn’t debatable. It’s fact. Running comes into play on later downs, in the second half. A favorite phrase of Sharp is ‘establish the lead, not the run’. Get the lead early, then run the ball to secure the victory – not visa versa. Pete Carroll refuses to acknowledge that his early era Seahawk success was due more so to the cheap quarterback/stacked roster phenomenon we see building year after year – a topic that we will explore in-depth in future pieces – than his genius.
We don’t need to go too far into the weeds to see the glaring failures of this outing. As Sharp points out, “Russell Wilson averaged 8.6 YPA [yards per attempt]…” while “[t]he Seahawks RBs averaged 2.8 [yards per carry] on 21 runs”. Furthering the point with an examination of first down results in the first half, Sharp notes that our runs resulted in an average of 2.0 yards per carry. The yards per pass attempt? 14.5. Russ “was 7/11 with 8.8 YPA” overall in the first half. Our running backs produced “19 yards on 9 carries… [and our] longest run 5 yards”. How did Mr. Carroll adjust in the second half, you say? He doubled down on his 1sthalf game plan, while losing,to the tune of 6 running back carries on first down for 3.9 YPC. The lone first down pass attempt resulted in a 9 yard gain. The single pass on first down more than doubled the production of his 6 running back carries, yet he continued his inefficient ways and delivered a playoff victory to the city of Dallas.
Without diving too much further into the ether, a few cursory glances at the box score will put a bow on this travesty. A total of 4 Seahawks were producing 10.5-or-more yards per reception in this game. Mike Davis caught 2 balls for 22 yards, Doug Baldwin caught 3 for 32, Ed Dickson caught 4 for 42, and Tyler Locket caught 4 for 120 yards – a whopping 30 yards per reception. And yet,Pete Carroll opted for a game plan involving just 27 pass attempts for our All-World gunslinger while rushing away 21 attempts on the shoulders of our RBs. Ironically, our lone rushing touchdown came from the guy throwing the ball too. That’s right – our only rushing TD was on a 4-yard carry by Mr. Russell Carrington Wilson.
If the Seahawks hope to win another Super Bowl with Russell Wilson on their roster, they’re going to need a coaching change. Carroll has shown a concrete unwillingness to acknowledge that his means of playing the game come at the cost of victory. Russell Wilson has a great chance at being a Canton resident one day, but it won’t come with this style of football.