Eric Parks, Staff Writer
When the 2017 season began, many fans and experts had high hopes for the Seattle Seahawks. With a roster and coaching staff that were both heavily stacked, the Seahawks were considered a serious contender to win the Super Bowl. While the team started off hot, they finished the season 9-7 and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Through the first seven games of the season, the Seattle Seahawks looked like the defensive juggernaut the league has come to expect them to be. They posted a 5-2 record and held opponents to seventeen points or fewer five times. While the running game and offensive line were glaring weaknesses, Russell Wilson put the offense on his back to score just enough to win games. On October 31, the Seahawks acquired Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown to help shore up their offensive line. Many people thought that adding a franchise left tackle to protect the blind side of Russell Wilson and pave lanes in the running game was the one missing piece for Seattle to make a serious run at the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Brown sat much of his first season out because of injury and failed to significantly improve the offensive line.
Following Seattle’s trade for Duane Brown, the team won only four of their last nine (and only one of their last four). While his failure to solidify the offensive line wasn’t the main reason for the Seahawks’ decline, it was certainly representative of Seattle’s struggle to utilize Pro Bowl talent effectively in 2017. In the last two months of the season, the team was unable to win against the beatable Redskins and Cardinals, losing by three and two, respectively. Additionally, Seattle had four matchups against teams that would go on to make the playoffs, but were only able to win one of those games against Philadelphia out of that group. In Week 15, the division rival Los Angeles Rams came to CenturyLink in a game that was meaningful for both teams. The Rams played the best game of their season while the Seahawks effectively ended theirs, losing 42-7.
The Seahawks’ collapse had many causes. Even during their “hot start,” the team was not playing at a dominant level against inferior teams. Injuries to Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and especially Richard Sherman, whose season ended in Week 10 when he ruptured his achilles, left gaping holes in the Legion of Boom. Linebackers Cliff Avril and Bobby Wagner also missed time due to injury and interior lineman Sheldon Richardson played well at times but did not live up to his expectations. These factors help explain why Seattle surrendered nearly 21 points per game, ranked 14th in the NFL, a sharp decline compared to previous seasons. On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks were unable to run the ball and were ranked in the bottom third of the league in rushing yards per game. This forced Seattle to become predictable in their offensive game planning, throwing the ball much more often than they would have liked to. While the team appeared to have the talent that would allow them to be one of the best teams in the NFL, they settled for mediocrity throughout the season and forced fans, executives and ownership to wonder “what’s next?”
While the defense struggled because of injury, a unit that has eight of eleven starters with at least one Pro Bowl appearance on their resume should have viable depth behind the starters. Every team loses key contributors to injury, even those that go on to win championships. Teams who find success in the NFL don’t avoid internal conflict and injuries, they overcome it. Seattle’s inability to overcome locker room conflicts and injuries forced Pete Carroll to examine his coaching staff and make some changes. The team ended up firing their offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and offensive line and assistant head coach, moves that signify a change of direction for Seattle. With major adjustments to the roster inevitably coming in the offseason, the 2018 Seahawks will look a lot different than their 2017 version, a fact that will both worry and excite Seahawks fans.