When the Seattle Seahawks decided to part ways with longtime starting QB Russell Wilson and longtime LB Bobby Wagner instead of parting ways with longtime Seattle head coach (and USC Football coaching legend) Pete Carroll, it raised many eyebrows.
While Wagner isn't the same, First-Team All-Pro Linebacker he's been since essentially 2014, he was still a very good player last year. And while Wilson wasn't the same, elite quarterback that he had been for years, he was still only 33 years old. Carroll was going to turn 71 this season, and already has.
It was questioned as to why the Seahawks would make the decision to trade Wilson, who had more years left in his career than the 71-year-old head coach. Especially since the Seahawks had been squandering Wilson's best years (2015 to 2020), and hadn't competed for any championships in that time. Lots of blame was placed on Carroll, and rightfully so.
The team hadn't contended for any Super Bowls, and had gone on zero deep postseason runs since Carroll and his OC Darrell Bevell made the famous decision to throw the ball on the goal line at the end of Super Bowl XLIX in the 2014-2015 season. Everyone remembers what happened as a result of that decision.
The New England Patriots picked off the ball, when the Hawks could have just run it with one of the best goal-line running backs in NFL history in the Seattle version of Marshawn Lynch. It is the most famous bonehead play-call of all time. Carroll and Bevell had prevented Wilson from having a Super Bowl he should have had.
With Wilson not holding his own end of the bargain last year, though, this would be the season where Carroll could prove that he can coach (like he did at USC and in the beginning of his Seahawks career) without a QB of the caliber of 2015-2020 Russell Wilson. And, so far, it has gone great. Carroll is 5-3 so far this year, and Wilson's Broncos are 3-5.
Ex-USC Football Head Coach Pete Carroll also beat Wilson in the first game of the season.
Not only that, but the QB position has actually improved since Wilson left former USC Football Head Coach Pete Carroll's NFL team. Wilson last year completed 64.8% of his passes for the Hawks, and new Seattle QB Geno Smith has completed 72.7% of his passes.
On the ground, Wilson averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season, while Smith is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season. He's been the better runner, as he's posted 19.8 rushing yards per game this season. Wilson posted just 13.1 rushing yards per contest in 2021. To make matters worse for Wilson, take a peak at more of his numbers for this year (on the left) vs. Smith's numbers for this year (on the right):
58.8% completion percentage//////////72.7% completion percentage
7.4 passing yards per attempt//////////7.7 passing yards per attempt
7.2 adjusted passing yards per attempt//////////8.2 adjusted passing yards per attempt
6 touchdown passes//////////13 touchdown passes
4 interceptions//////////3 interceptions
Interestingly, things have actually improved at the Quarterback position for Carroll after Wilson's departure. And seeing Carroll's team doing much better than Wilson's team, despite Wilson's Broncos having plenty of talent around him, goes to show that Wilson isn't the elite guy he was. He was for a very long time, but again, he clearly hasn't been that guy in these past two years.
So, is Carroll back to the coach he used to be with the Trojans, and who he was up until that goal line decision in the Super Bowl? Well, there's still more than half the season to be played, so it would probably be wise to not crown anybody just yet. But he's most certainly gotten off to a strong start, and eight games is a legitimate sample size.
And with Wilson being as bad as he's been in these eight games, it really makes one think that Carroll's start is sustainable. If Carroll wins this week against an Arizona Cardinals team he's already beaten this season, it's going to be all smiles on Carroll's end.
Look, Carroll and the front office in Seattle didn't support Wilson the way they should have in his prime. And it's true that Carroll is 52-52 in his seven years without Wilson at QB. But it's also true that if things continues to go this way for Carroll, and things continue to go the wrong way for Wilson in Denver, it may be time to acknowledge that Carroll is coaching like the Carroll of old again.
Winning the NFC West will still be very tough, but Carroll is in the lead by a game at this point in the season. It's important to give credit where it's due, and if Seattle continues to perform like this, that credit may be coming in droves for Carroll.