Pete Carroll’s Wednesday of whacking assistants is indeed a double move to fix the Seahawks’ offense.
Carroll has fired Tom Cable, his offensive line coach and assistant head coach since 2011.
The Seahawks made the moves official Wednesday afternoon.
“We are challenged by change, but excited to tackle the future with great purpose. I want to thank both Tom and Darrell for their role in helping take this program to a championship level,” Carroll wrote in a statement released by the team. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity to coach and compete alongside these great men.”
The move to get rid of the running-game coordinator and scout, evaluator, architect and teacher of Seattle’s deteriorated blocking came hours after Carroll fired offensive coordinator and play caller Darrell Bevell.
The firings come 11 days after the Seahawks ended their first season without a playoff appearance in six years. And Carroll may not be done.
I’ve learned from multiple sources defensive coordinator Kris Richard may be the next top assistant to exit. The 38-year-old defensive coordinator may have other opportunities to pursue. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport stated Richard “would be allowed out of his contract for another opportunity,” and that Seattle coach Pete Carroll “believes Richard would benefit from experiencing something new.”
Richard interviewed Friday with the Indianapolis Colts about their vacant head-coaching job.
Carroll values the continuity he has enjoyed on his staff: Bevell had been his Seahawks offensive coordinator and play caller also since 2011.
Yet when you don’t win, you change.
Carroll, 66, told me during the 2014 preseason he wanted to coach the Seahawks for another 10 years (which would tie him with Marv Levy and George Halas as the oldest coaches in NFL history at age 72). The contract extension he signed with Seattle in the summer of 2016 is only through 2019. He has two seasons before what could be the final crossroads of his coaching career.
Wednesday’s moves show he feels the urgency to remake this team in his way now, back to a dominant running game, before it’s too late.
The last two seasons have been a referendum on the vast authority and decision-making responsibility Carroll and general manager John Schneider gave Cable on scouting, evaluating, drafting, signing and developing offensive linemen. That’s from Cable being on college campuses working out Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski among the league-leading 16 offensive linemen the Seahawks have drafted since 2011. That was the year Cable joined Seattle’s staff after the Oakland Raiders fired him as their head coach.
That referendum failed.
Five of those 16 offensive linemen--nearly one-third--Seattle has drafted with Cable’s input since 2011 never started a game for the Seahawks (Poole, Garrett Scott, Kristjan Sokoli, Justin Senior, Ryan Seymour). Three others started fewer than nine games: Michael Bowie, Rees Odhiambo and Joey Hunt (Odhiambo and Hunt, 2016 draft choices, are still on the team).
So half of those league-leading 16 offensive linemen Seattle has drafted in the last half-dozen years haven’t started more than eight games for the team.
Cable was also Seattle’s run-game coordinator; he mentored and meshed running backs with those blockers in a unique arrangement; most NFL offensive coordinators don’t have to share responsibilities in the running game with another assistant. The Seahawks have gone from the NFL’s top five rushing offense in 2012, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15--when Marshawn Lynch was romping in Cable’s zone-running schemes and Seattle played in two Super Bowls--to 25th and 23rd the last two seasons behind injured and relatively anonymous successors to Lynch. Take away quarterback and team-rushing leader Russell Wilson’s scramble yards he got in 2017 avoiding sacks on plays that weren’t supposed to be runs and the Seahawks would have been 32nd, dead last, in rushing offense.
Their running backs--Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, J.D. McKissic, Chris Carson (who missed most of the season on injured reserve) and C.J. Prosise (also mostly on IR)--averaged just 62 yards per game. That was the lowest production by running backs in the league. Davis spent the first 10 weeks of this past season on the practice squad after Seattle signed him off waivers last spring from San Francisco. He ended the season as Seattle’s lead back. Cable scouted Davis out of South Carolina in 2015, the year the 49ers drafted him.
The Seahawks’ offensive line went through five iterations of starting lineups during the 2017 season. It will change yet again this offseason. It has to. The Seahawks can’t even begin Carroll’s stated top goal of returning to a running game until they fix the line that could not provide lanes through which to run in 2017.
That fixing will begin by changing the ways its been developed, taught and blocked the last two years--meaning, changing the man who’s developed and taught it. And changing the man calling the plays.
As an aside: Nobody wants to hear this today, but Bevell in particular is a class act. He is a family man. He was always good to me while I covered the team, both on and off the record. In the hallways and sidelines of team headquarters. In hotel lobbies. Yes, he heard the haters. He also accomplished a ton while at times handcuffed by his offense's shortcomings.
Foremost among them: the lack of consistent blocking.
True to himself, Bevell issued a statement soon after the Seahawks made his firing official.
“I would like to thank the entire Seahawks organization for seven great seasons,” Bevell wrote. “I can’t thank Mr. Allen, Pete Carroll, John Schneider, our coaching staff and players enough for the support and hard work they put in to help build the championship success of this team.”
Beyond its broken running game, Seattle with Cable’s line allowed Wilson to get hit 121 times trying to pass this past season. That was the third-most quarterback hits allowed in the league. It was 10 more hits than in 2016, when the pass protection was so bad it got Wilson a severely sprained knee and badly sprained ankle in the first three games. The Seahawks’ O-line allowed 43 sacks in 2017, 11th-most in the NFL--and one more than it gave up in 2016.
The questions for Seattle’s line in 2018 are at left guard, right guard and right tackle--and, now, line coach.
Top wide receiver Doug Baldwin shoved Cable out of the way during what Baldwin wanted to be a players-led talk on the sidelines while the offense was struggling again early in an eventual October win at the New York Giants.
Now Cable’s been shoved completely out of the Seahawks franchise.
Indeed, Carroll hinted last week there would be changes to his staff. He often gives his top assistants head-coach-like responsibilities during seasons. He quizzes them about more overarching, head-man responsibilities to prepare his deputies for career advancement.
“There’s guys up for jobs now. This is that time of the year when stuff happens. We’ll see how it goes,” Carroll said.
“I think a lot of respect is to be dealt to these guys. They’ve got families and lives and careers and dreams and hopes, as we all do. And we’ll see what happens. I’ve always been here to help our guys and I want them to go and do what they’re capable of doing and meet their challenges of their lifetime as well, and I’m up for that. When it works out, I do everything I can to help them.”
“We’ll see what happens,” Carroll said.
We just did.