The Seattle Seahawks are 1-2 after three games. What was supposed to be a rebound year for the franchise has turned some fans to thinking it might be better to start tanking – or maybe the tank is already on.
Seattle won their first game in their new offense by jumping out to an early lead and then holding off a comeback attempt by their opponent. They looked out of sorts the next week, with many mistakes leading to a loss and a significant collapse by the defense. They had their offense going the following week against a winless opponent, but their defense couldn’t get stops again, and they went into week four, staring at a 1-2 record, just trying to get back to .500.
What you just read might sound like it describes this season, but it is actually regarding Seattle’s first three games of the 2021 season.
Seattle defeated Indianapolis before losing to Tennessee and Minnesota to land at 1-2 going into week four. The offense had issues scoring in the second half of games and the defense stopped absolutely no one. It wasn’t a Russell Wilson problem, but fans were confident he would get the team back on track. That didn’t happen, as Wilson missed the first games of his career just two weeks later, and the team would go on to win just six more games the rest of the season and missed the playoffs. Those same fans that thought Wilson could get them back on track are not as confident Geno Smith can help this team succeed, which is probably fair, but from what we saw of Wilson last season, there wasn’t a reason to hope then either.
The problem wasn’t the QB then, and it’s not the primary concern now. The Seahawks are just the 28th-best rushing team right now and have exactly zero touchdowns. This is a Pete Carroll team gosh darn it to heck, how are they so awful at running the ball? Seattle is actually close to being an average team in passing, landing at 21st in the league overall and having the 7th most passing touchdowns. On the flip side, Seattle has improved their passing defense, ranking 19th in the league overall, and has given up the second least passing scores. Rushing defense is another story altogether, they are 31st in the league in yards allowed on the ground, and they have given up the second most touchdowns. So they can’t run the ball, and they can’t stop anyone from running it.
They are flunking the run game and are a C- in passing, which makes their overall team grade right now a D+. Even the best QBs in the history of the game aren’t going to be able to take a team that is this bad at stopping their opponent and turn them into a winner, not in three weeks anyway.
Do you tank truthers out there want Seattle to run the table the rest of the way (not in the traditional sense) and get the first overall pick in 2023? Seattle has a lot of competition for the top pick this year, as Las Vegas and Houston have yet to win a game. Washington has the same record as Seattle, but assuming the Commanders stink as much as they appear to, they might make a run at Seattle, and their only win is against Jacksonville, who will also struggle this year. Seattle wanted to beat Denver to prove a point, but it’s possible they gave up their best shot at the top pick in the draft that night. The Cardinals only have one win, and who knows if the Bears win another game the rest of the season, I’m still surprised they are 2-1 right now. If Seattle wins just one more game, they could match Chicago’s total; that’s how close it is.
There are some other one-win teams out there, but they are expected to bounce back. That leaves Seattle with as many as six teams competing for the top overall pick, which is not great for the league; if 20% of the teams are awful, that’s a lot of bad football being broadcast. If multiple teams finish tied for the lowest total of wins at the end of the season, the tiebreaker is strength of schedule. Heading into the season, Seattle was slated to have the 28th lowest strength of schedule, which would put them in the front of the pack if there is a tie at the bottom, but that depends on the teams that were the worst last season staying put if any of Seattle’s opponents improve it will adjust the current rankings and could drastically impact Seattle’s chances at the best player in the draft next season.
If you read through Seattle’s chances at tanking and thought, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance?”….click here. You shouldn’t want your team to struggle that much. This team had a 7-10 record last season, and Russell Wilson started 14 of those games. He wasn’t gone for most of the season; he wasn’t even out for half of it – he missed three games total and didn’t get injured until late in the game against the Rams, and the outcome looked doubtful when he left. Wilson didn’t gel with the new offense and struggled to make it work. You can blame whatever you want, the truth is he wasn’t an effective player last year, and he sure doesn’t look like one so far this season.
This team isn’t a quality QB away from competing; they are a quality run game and defense away from competing. If you think Geno stinks, you’re entitled to your opinion. Regardless of how Geno is doing, it’s unrealistic to assume Wilson would be doing any better in this offense. Wilson is now in an offense designed around his strengths, yet the results have been subpar. Perhaps it’s a learning curve; maybe it’s comfort level in a new scheme, or maybe he’s still connecting with his new teammates. To help illustrate my point, here are Geno’s and Wilson’s current numbers through three games:
Geno is two years younger, playing for $13.5M less and beating Russ in eight out of eleven categories, and he’s doing it with a virtually nonexistent running game. Russ, meanwhile, has the benefit of the 12th-ranked rushing attack, which should benefit him, especially in a Kyle Shanahan-inspired offense designed to take pressure off the QB with a team-first system. You can claim that defenses are loading the box and daring Geno to throw, and he’s winning that battle. You could also argue that Russ is facing a lot of heavy zone looks, and he’s not getting the ball to his receivers against the opponent’s second or third-best defender. If you’re paying your QB a quarter of a billion dollars, he should be able to complete a lot of passes and carry the offense, but that’s not what we’re seeing so far.
It’s possible a different QB could elevate this team, but their passing offense doesn’t appear to be the issue. Carroll is known for building teams with a great defense and a power running game; he has neither right now. If he wants to get things going, it’s not the QB he needs to replace. It’s a lot of other people around him. Or he needs to inspire the guys he already has, he wanted a young team to start fresh with, and that’s what he has now.
Regardless of what Pete does in the coming weeks to get his team on track, it’s not Geno that’s the issue. Geno is playing well, taking care of the football, and limiting his mistakes. He’s getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers and outplaying his deal.
The Seahawks don’t have a Geno problem; they have a running problem and a defense problem. Those are not things Geno can fix, but Pete can, and he better do it soon.