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Originally published Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:00 PM

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Steve Kelley

Firing of offensive coordinator is just the first move in what figures to be interesting offseason for Seahawks

Columnist Steve Kelley predicts that Pete Carroll will be back for the 2011 season. Beyond that, though, who knows?

Seattle Times staff columnist

Pete Carroll will return next season to coach the Seahawks.

OK, so much for the safe predictions for the 2011 season. Practically everything else about this franchise is open for debate.

The firing of offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, the day after the Sunday loss to the Chicago Bears, is the latest example of how coldblooded this administration will be in its pursuit of success.

Nobody is immune. Nobody is safe.

Jeremy Bates is all out, and next season (if there is a next season) the Seahawks will have their fourth offensive coordinator in four years.

Bates is out and, despite the NFC West championship and the playoff win over New Orleans, it's hard to characterize this as a successful season when the offensive coordinator Carroll brought with him from USC is fired this soon in Carroll's reign.

There is a disconnect between Carroll's unvarnished postgame optimism following Sunday's smack-in-the-face at Chicago, and his actions the next day.

Words won't fix the Seahawks. This building project Carroll inherited is going to take even more time than he thought.

This offseason begins without an offensive coordinator, without a quarterback and with questions about players like right tackle Sean Locklear and center Chris Spencer.

It hardly matters whether all of the Seahawks' players have bought into Carroll's philosophy, when it is obvious that so many will be gone next season.

The revolving door will continue to spin like a carousel.

Bates was a problem almost from the beginning. He was stubborn. He tried to force-feed his players a modified West Coast offensive style. He believed in stretching the field, throwing deep, but he didn't have the personnel to do it.

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Bates didn't like the idea of long, time-consuming drives. He was more of a quick-strike guy. But he didn't have the players to fit his system, and he was loath to change his style to accommodate his roster.

He made far too many mistakes.

The lack of progress shown by rookie wide receiver Golden Tate was a source of frustration to the Seahawks, and much of the blame for that was placed on Bates.

And the fade routes he called on so many third-and-shorts were symbolic of the Hawks' offensive frustrations.

But probably Bates' fatal mistake was never finding a common ground with offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. Their preseason clashes led to Gibbs quitting a week before the season, an unforgivable distraction.

In his third try, Carroll is different as an NFL coach from his days with the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Back then, he contracted out his offensive staff in much the same way former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren deeded his defense to his coordinators.

This time, however, Carroll is being more proactive. The Seahawks are his show when it comes to offense, defense, special teams and personnel decisions.

Paul Allen owns the Seahawks, but, for now, they belong to Carroll.

For whatever reason, late into the season, Bates seemed to better tailor his game plans to his players. The Seahawks had longer drives and when they did strike deep, they were more successful.

In the NFC wild-card win over New Orleans, Matt Hasselbeck threw long touchdown passes to Brandon Stokely (45 yards) on third-and-three and to Mike Williams (38 yards) on third-and-two.

Those plays, however, came too late for Bates to save his job.

The Seahawks finished with their third straight losing season and didn't improve statistically from last season.

In 2009, the Hawks had a point differential of minus 110. This season it was minus 97. They were 25th in total offense last year, 23rd in the 32-team league this year.

Their rushing offense was 25th last season and 31st this season. Their passing offense declined from 15th in 2009 to 19th in 2010. And they were 25th in scoring this season, the same as last.

Bates can argue that he inherited a team in transition, a team that dramatically turned over its roster. Continuity takes time to build. He had to find a way to win with 10 different offensive-line combinations.

Maybe Carroll should have been more patient with Bates, who is only 34. Carroll should have understood there would be a learning curve that came with hiring him.

But the fact is, Bates is gone. And every Seahawk should know by now that if you are going to play for, work for, or coach for Pete Carroll, you have to be all-in. You have to be fully committed to his beliefs or you won't last.

The roster will continue to change dramatically, and with the threat of a lockout looming in March, the future's uncertainty is amplified.

The Hawks, for instance, could face the prospect of a shortened preseason, no minicamps and less time to learn whatever changes a new offensive coordinator might bring.

One thing is certain. The Seahawks' headquarters is not Tranquility Base. For all of Carroll's sunshine-and-lollipops rhetoric, the Seahawks are a ton of bricks short of a load.

And Jeremy Bates merely is the first casualty of what will be a very interesting and very complicated offseason.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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