As the 2018 NFL season begins, a former NFC superpower out West no longer is as mighty as it once was.
The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the best teams of the past decade, using a fierce defense and smart quarterback play from Russell Wilson to earn two Super Bowl appearances and one title.
But the ‘Hawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom is all but gone. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Jeremy Lane all have left, and only safety Earl Thomas remains. The destruction of Seattle’s dynasty was always a when rather than an if, but, the why still remains.
But now the pieces are starting to come together.
A piece published Friday by Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop and Robert Klemko shined some light on the downfall of the Seahawks, who missed the playoffs for the first time in Wilson’s career last season, and the rot at the base of the dynasty appears to stem from Carroll’s coddling of his quarterback.
The reported rift between the defensive stars and Wilson has been talked about for some time, but now some former members of the Seahawks are discussing how the treatment of Wilson led to a shift in the team’s culture and ultimately destroyed what Carroll built.
It all started in 2014, when Sherman intercepted a pass from Wilson in practice and yelled “You f&%$@&$ suck!” at the quarterback, an incident the cornerback later admitted to.
Players told SI that following that incident, Carroll called his team leaders into his office and asked them to not be hard on the young quarterback.
“Those same players had been indoctrinated into the NFL the exact way they were trying to teach Wilson, with merciless competition as the way to bring out the best in each other, by never letting a lapse slide, by talking s— after interceptions, even in practice,” Bishop and Klemko wrote. “In the meeting, they told Carroll exactly that. “This is making him one of our own,” one player said, while several others nodded, according to two who were in the room. “He’s got to go through the process.”
The head coach, however, didn’t see eye to eye with his players.
“He protected him,” one Seahawk told Sports Illustrated. “And we hated that. Any time he f—– up, Pete would never say anything. Not in a team meeting, not publicly, never. If Russ had a terrible game, he would always talk about how resilient he was. We’re like, what the f— are you talking about?”
Things started to go downhill in 2015, when Wilson threw four interceptions in the NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers. Wilson went 14-for-29 for 209 yards with four picks, but tossed consecutive 35-yard passes in overtime, the second of which hit Jermaine Kearse for the game-winning score.
Carroll, according to some players, unnecessarily gushed over Wilson’s mediocre game.
“That’s when guys really started to notice the lack of accountability,” a former player said. “Before that, if guys made mistakes or we lost games, guys took responsibility for it, for good or for bad. We started losing that.”
Then came the Super Bowl XLIX loss to the New England Patriots when Carroll elected to throw the ball from the 1-yard line instead of giving it to Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson was picked off by Malcolm Butler.
Some players believe Carroll was dead set on making sure Wilson would win Super Bowl MVP.
“That’s when some guys started to openly question whether (Carroll) believed in his philosophy,” Avril said. “Guys started to be like, ‘do you even believe what you’re saying?’
“When you start losing, people feel like they’re losing control of the team,” Avril said. “Or they feel like they’re losing control of people on the team. You get away with that when you’re winning.”
Seattle now faces what could be a trying season, as Carroll and Wilson will try to lead a team with an unproven defense, a rebuilt offensive line and a shaky running game back to the playoffs.
Thumbnail photo via Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports Images