Seahawks can measure progress with solid second half
Despite causing some early season consternation, Pete Carroll now has his team in position to maximize this rebuilding season.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Pete Carroll is the stubborn male driver who won't stop to ask for directions. Scream all you want that he's going the wrong way. He's not listening. He believes too much in his way. And unlike the typical stubborn male driver, Carroll might actually arrive at his destination in a timely manner.
Despite causing some early season consternation, the Seahawks coach and executive vice president now has his team in position to maximize this rebuilding season. The Seahawks, who have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, have won three of their last four games to rise from among the league's worst to among its most promising. At 5-7, they have four games remaining, starting Dec. 12 against St. Louis, and if they can finish well, it would mark an encouraging turnaround and perhaps signal the end of the most painful part of this transition.
There are still major, complicated problems to solve, most notably how to find a franchise quarterback. But even though Carroll and general manager John Schneider are unconventional at times, not to mention unafraid to do the unpopular, they're remodeling this franchise without suspending competitiveness for prolonged stretches.
The standard of success this season is progress, and the Seahawks have undoubtedly developed over the course of the season. In fact, they're primed to be the first Seahawks team to show significant improvement throughout the year since the 2005 Super Bowl squad.
It seems a stunning fact, but it's true. Look at 2006 to 2010. The Seahawks had a better second-half record in only one of those seasons. In 2007, they started 4-4, then went 6-2 down the stretch, but they also benefited from facing a slew of backup quarterbacks to close that year.
In 2006, they started 5-3 and closed 4-4. In 2008, Mike Holmgren's swan season, they started 2-6 and closed 2-6. In 2009: 3-5, 2-6. Last season: 4-4, 3-5.
This season, they started 2-6 and looked a mess, but now they've won three of four. Their final four games include two teams that are clearly worse than them (St. Louis and Arizona); one scrambling to keep it together without its starting quarterback (Chicago); and the new beast of the NFC West (San Francisco). You can never be sure with these Seahawks, but it's realistic to think they can match last season's 7-9 record. Of course, a playoff berth won't come attached this time.
It's nothing to celebrate, but if you consider the big picture — that the Seahawks wanted to get as young as possible this season to expedite their rebuilding plan — then they've done a solid job of remaining a functional team while looking toward the future.
It hasn't always been that way. Following a lockout-shortened preseason, they were especially unwatchable in the first month of the season, and they're not exactly the Green Bay Packers right now. Still, their progress has become evident.
You see it in a young secondary, featuring two rookie cornerbacks and two second-year safeties, that has exceeded expectations and added another dimension to this defense. You see it in a front seven that is becoming fearsome, with 330-pound defensive end Red Bryant serving as the anchor. You see it in the eye-opening versatility of running back Marshawn Lynch and the development of second-year receiver Golden Tate and the stabilization of the offensive line despite numerous injuries.
The biggest compliment is that the Seahawks aren't fun to play anymore. Think back two years to former coach Jim Mora's "dirtbags" news conference. In it, he lamented his team's soft nature.
"There are teams out there that say, if you walk into Seattle and punch them in the face, they won't react," Mora said that day.
Now, the Seahawks have a physical, oversized defense. They have perhaps the league's most physical runner in Lynch. And they have an offensive line that is making strides in both execution and toughness under assistant head coach Tom Cable.
The Seahawks are also deeper. They have had to put 12 players on injured reserve this season, and left tackle Russell Okung, who has a torn pectoral muscle, will soon become No. 13. They have lost three-fifths of their starting offensive line (and that doesn't include Robert Gallery, who missed a lot of time in the first half of the season), their best wide receiver, two starting cornerbacks and two other players who were expected to have huge roles — tight end John Carlson and defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson. Nevertheless, the Seahawks continue to get better.
Give Carroll credit for keeping them on the right path, even if you weren't sure what path he was taking.
The Seahawks aren't there yet, wherever there is. But it's becoming easier to trust them. That includes the man behind the wheel.
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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