No Russell Wilson, unhealthy protection and 2-Four begin — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll faces hardest problem

RENTON, Wash. — Matt Hasselbeck remembers seeing it in every single place, listening to it in every single place: seven and 9.

It was the top of the 2010 common season, coach Pete Carroll’s first with the Seattle Seahawks and Hasselbeck’s final as Seahawks quarterback. They’d simply crushed the St. Louis Rams in Week 17 to say the NFC West title and grow to be the primary group within the Tremendous Bowl period to win its division with a sub.-500 file.

To the dismay of many NFL observers, that meant a first-round assembly with the New Orleans Saints, who had earned a wild-card bid at 11-5 after successful the Tremendous Bowl the earlier season. Speaking heads groaned {that a} 7-9 group did not should win its division, not to mention host a playoff sport.

What’s extra: the Saints had crushed the Seahawks by two touchdowns in New Orleans two months earlier.

“So we knew how good they had been,” Hasselbeck, now an analyst at ESPN, recalled this week. “They had been actually good, and we knew we had been 7-9.”

Till Carroll obtained them to imagine they weren’t.

“Seven and 9 was in every single place and Pete’s slogan was, ‘We aren’t 7-9. We’re zero and 0. And guess what everybody else is? Zero and 0,'” stated Hasselbeck, who might be inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor after they host New Orleans on Monday evening (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) as 4.5-point underdogs.

“Whether or not we had been naïve to imagine it or not, we thought we had been zero and 0. We weren’t 7-9. We had been zero and 0, identical to everybody else. We believed it. We had been in. He had us so targeted on it. Possibly we had been suckers, however we liked it. We had been in on it.”

Eleven years after his group pulled off one of many best playoff upsets in NFL historical past, Carroll has one other unbelievable job in entrance of him. The Seahawks are 2-4, 4½ video games behind the division-leading Arizona Cardinals and 3½ behind the second-place Los Angeles Rams. They’ve a suspect protection and a backup quarterback in Geno Smith for at the least two extra video games, whereas Russell Wilson recovers from finger surgical procedure.

Carroll has confronted his share of inauspicious teaching challenges in Seattle: rebuilding on-the-fly in 2010, avoiding the pitfalls that may comply with a Tremendous Bowl win, managing the fallout of their devastating Tremendous Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, moving on from the Legion of Boom in 2017 and 2018 and turning round a historically bad defense in 2020.

What makes this impediment completely different from most of these: Carroll does not have Wilson.

“It is a problem,” he stated. “I’ve obtained to guide the cost, and I will kick ass on that.”

‘It is a very related feeling’

Carroll’s unwavering optimism, even within the face of dire conditions, is rooted in common assurances he used to get from his mom. Rita Carroll’s oft-repeated line to her kids was that “one thing good is about to occur.”

Linebacker Bobby Wagner believes one thing good is about to occur.

Seattle’s defensive captain is one in all three gamers — Wilson and broad receiver Tyler Lockett are the others — left over from the 2015 Seahawks’ group that began 2-4. It completed 10-6, earned a wild-card bid and superior to the divisional spherical after Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip-shot discipline aim in sub-zero Minneapolis.

“I keep in mind all people on the surface saying our season was over and saying that we had no probability of being good,” Wagner recalled of that 2-Four begin. “And I keep in mind us simply locking in and focusing. It is a very related feeling. I really feel like whenever you watch the video games and watch a few of the issues that we have carried out, I really feel like we’re very shut and I really feel prefer it’s not like we’re not getting higher.

“I am very assured within the guys that we now have. I am assured that we’re only a couple performs away, only a couple minor tweaks away from being a group that I do know we might be. So we have simply obtained to lock in. There is no extra room actually for error for us to … determine these items out.”

That 2015 group had the Legion of Growth main the league’s top-ranked scoring protection. And it had Wilson, the quarterback who’s led extra game-winning drives within the fourth quarter or extra time than anybody since 2012, the man who has masked so lots of his group’s flaws in its post-Tremendous Bowl years, the first purpose why you’ll be able to by no means depend the Seahawks out.

This group has a protection that confirmed enchancment final week in an extra time loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers however has largely underperformed whereas permitting essentially the most yards within the NFL by six video games. It has a superb backup in Smith, who stuffed the position of sport supervisor effectively whereas rallying Seattle from a 14-Zero deficit earlier than dropping a fumble in OT.

It is Smith’s job for at the least two extra video games, when Wilson might be eligible to come back off injured reserve. Carroll has given no timetable on his quarterback’s return, saying if it is bodily potential for Wilson to play in Week 10 at Inexperienced Bay following Seattle’s bye, he’ll.

“I positively really feel like we perceive what’s at stake,” Wagner stated. “It is essential for guys like myself, Russell to ensure the younger guys perceive that we now have been on this place earlier than. Simply because we began 2-4, it doesn’t suggest that has outlined our season. The season could be very lengthy. I am assured that after these two video games, the bye week, we’ll be sitting in an excellent place.”

‘How will we repair this?’

Carroll, who turned 70 final month, is underneath contract by 2025 after signing an extension final season. Hasselbeck believes that is an essential distinction from the dynamic that struggling groups typically face.

“Normally in a state of affairs the place you are on the quote-unquote sizzling seat otherwise you’re having a kind of horrible years, individuals are all involved about their very own jobs and it is extra about overlaying your personal butt on your personal job than it’s about getting it fastened for actual,” he stated. “I feel the good factor in case you’re rooting for Seattle is there’s job safety in a giant means there. There is no query about … that form of factor. So the main focus might be on how will we repair this? Just like final yr when everybody was dropping their minds on speak radio.”

Hasselbeck was referencing their defensive turnaround, after they went from setting information for futility early to permitting the fewest factors within the NFL over the past seven weeks.

“Pete did not actually flinch,” Hasselbeck stated. “He simply obtained it fastened mainly.”

Now, the problems are on each side of the ball. The NFC West is stacked. Wilson is sidelined. And the stakes are raised given the uncertainty about Wilson’s future in Seattle past 2021.

Carroll and the Seahawks want one thing good to occur in a rush.

He pointed to how his gamers rallied in Pittsburgh as proof of how they’re going to deal with such an unfamiliar problem.

“There is no alternative,” he stated after the Steelers’ loss. “Happily, we come again on Monday evening. We get an additional day. However there are not any choices. We have to come back again and freaking battle. That is how we do it.”

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