Pete Carroll already made his decision, so don’t ask him if he’s going to change quarterbacks.
When he decided to go with rookie Russell Wilson over the more experienced Matt Flynn, it was clear that Carroll was planning to lean heavily on his well-constructed defense and much-improved running game to help out the first-year quarterback. He was following a formula — defense and running game carrying a rookie QB — that has worked over the last decade for teams like Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Baltimore, the New York Jets and Cincinnati.
Carroll surely knew the slippery slope he was traversing. He had to know the passing game would struggle, especially after the three-man QB competition he staged in training camp. He was starting a rookie QB who had not had a lot of time with all of the key receivers. Most of the wideouts were limited in training camp and the preseason, and that unit is nothing more than average even when healthy.
Knowing all of that, Carroll cannot be surprised that his team has struggled to score points and has not been able to pull off comebacks against Arizona or St. Louis. The evidence told us this is how it would play out. The offense was destined to struggle through the first half of the season.
It’s unfortunate, because this team is playoff ready — except for the passing game. The Hawks are two touchdowns away from being 4-0, and many fans are wondering whether Flynn might have been able to finish the comebacks — or avoid being in those situations in the first place.
Carroll tried to throw water on that burgeoning fan fire by telling reporters that Flynn’s elbow is not healthy enough for him to prepare to start, even if the coach wanted to put him in. But forget all that silliness. The simple fact is Carroll wants to stay with the rookie.
“We’re going with Russell right now,” Carroll told reporters, per Seahawks.com. “He’s working his tail off to get it right. We’re all aware that the focus goes to the quarterback position, but there are a lot of guys that figure into what going on. He is not far from being really, really successful right now as a leader in that position. We just have to assess everything that’s going on. … It’s not just one guy.”
But can they avoid getting bumped out of the playoff race while they develop Wilson and his receivers and a cohesive pass-protecting line?
The Hawks just started a stretch of four road games in five weeks — with the lone home game coming against New England. If they want to have a shot at the playoffs, they have to emerge with a .500 record and then take advantage of a much easier second half of the season.
The Seahawks dominated the Rams on both sides of the line of scrimmage on Sunday — and yet still lost because Wilson and his receivers melted down and were unable to overcome the special-teams gaffes that had Seattle in a minor deficit.
To be fair, not all of the passing game’s failures have been Wilson’s fault. Two of his three interceptions Sunday were the result of mistakes by his receivers — Doug Baldwin letting a pass slip through his arms and Anthony McCoy falling down.
Penalties have hurt the offense all season as well. Feisty right tackle Breno Giacomini had two drive-damaging personal fouls Sunday.
On top of that, the play calling has been too conservative at times. The Hawks are running the ball amazingly well; Marshawn Lynch leads the NFL with 423 yards and they racked up a season-high 179 against St. Louis.
That should make it easier to throw the ball. Wilson is completing 60 percent of his passes, but he is averaging just 5.9 yards per attempt (31st in the NFL) and his passer rating is just 73.5 (27th in the NFL).
Play action is Wilson’s friend, and they didn’t use it enough against the Rams. Offensive play caller Darrell Bevell needs to put the game in motion for Wilson more, with designed rollouts. Let him get some completions and get into a rhythm. The coaches have been so focused on making Wilson a pocket passer that they have taken away one of the main threats he possesses: his mobility. They need to let him move with a plan rather than out of desperation.
That would alleviate some of the errors he is making: bailing out of the pocket too early, not seeing open receivers, forcing the ball, not throwing it because he’s unsure.
Much of the reason the Seahawks wanted to move on from Tarvaris Jackson is that Jackson simply could not move the team in the clutch. He was 0 for 5 in fourth-quarter comeback attempts last season.
But Wilson and his receivers have not been much better. If Golden Tate had not insinuated himself into the final play against Green Bay, enough to make the officials give him the winning touchdown reception, Wilson would be 0 for 3 already in comeback drives.
It is fair to wonder whether Flynn, who typically gets the ball out quickly, might have had better success in those cases — or if he might have produced points that made those last-second rallies unnecessary.
But Carroll has made his decision, so don’t ask him if he’s going to change quarterbacks.