RENTON -- Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll made it clear that he wished he didn't have to be making his season-ending comments to reporters on Tuesday.
Carroll had every intention of his team being a postseason participant again this season and was disappointed to see the team fall short of that bar this year. He was blunt in his assessment of the team's weak points this year, but was also optimistic the team could solved those issues moving forward.
"I’m encouraged about future and where we can go and what we can do," Carroll said. "I hope that was conveyed because I couldn’t feel more optimistic about our chances to be really good again. I think there is a championship team sitting in this meeting room right here.."
Here's five takeaways from Carroll's final press conference of the year:
1. Fixing the running game problems and cleaning up penalty issues are a focal point.
The Seahawks still want to be a running football team. However, they were utterly incapable of running the ball effectively for the majority of the season.
"There were issues during the season," Carroll said. "The big one I'd like to address for you is we have a real formula for how we win. We've been unable to incorporate a major aspect of that - running the football the way we want. There are tremendous examples of teams around the league that have turned their fortunes around with a formula that should sound familiar to you: Teams running the football, playing good defense and doing the kicking game thing. That's the formula that has proven historically the best in this game."
Russell Wilson, the quarterback, led the team in rushing with 586 rushing yards. Mike Davis led all running backs with 240 yards rushing on 68 carries. That's the least amount of rushing yards by a leading running back in team history outside of Sherman Smith's 202 yards in a strike-shortened 1982 season.
Davis, Chris Carson, J.D. McKissic, Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise combined to get 301 carries for 994 yards on the season. That's an average of 3.3 yards per carry for the year. Seattle also had 15.6 percent of all carries on the year go for negative yardage.
However, the issues really showed up when Seattle neared an opponent's goal line. The Seahawks had 43 rushes for a total of 46 yards with two touchdowns inside an opponent's 20-yard line this season. Take out Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett and it's 34 carries, 17 yards, no TDs, just one first down converted.
Inside the 10-yard line, the Seahawks had a total of 23 carries for zero yards and two 1-yard Wilson touchdown runs.
"That’s terrible, yeah," Carroll said. "It just shows you if you can’t run it with authority it’s just going to show up down there and that was really indicative unfortunately. And you know I won’t tell you that we really made a concentrated effort to go back and recapture that this year and we were on it and ready to go and it just didn’t come together for us for all of the reasons."
The other big area of concern was on the penalty front. The Seahawks had 148 penalties for 1,342 yards this season. The yards are the second most penalty yards in league history behind only the 1,358 yards of the 2011 Oakland Raiders. Germain Ifedi finished the season as the most penalized player in the league with 20 flags thrown against him.
"A major issue and probably my biggest regret this season is how the penalties factored into our season," Carroll said. "We’ve been in this situation before and we’ve been able to overcome the issues, and our style of play didn’t affect us. This year it was more of a factor. Our margin (of error) wasn’t as such that we could endure it as well, and that’s a major aspect that has to change. I’m clear on how I’m going to go about that and it’s going to start way back with the first day, April 16. We’ll make a change there and it has to happen."
2. Richard Sherman may end up being the last charter member of the Legion of Boom.
The end of an era may be on hand for a star-studded Seahawks secondary.
The namesake took hold in 2011 with Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner setting the foundation of the team's defensive rise to the top of the league. While the second cornerback spot has changed frequently through the years, the trio of Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor have been ever present.
However, Chancellor may never play again after a neck/stinger injury in a November game against the Arizona Cardinals. Sherman and Thomas carry two of the largest cap numbers on the team and are both only under contract for one more season.
With Sherman coming off an Achilles injury and still an engaged teammate toward the younger cornerbacks on the roster, he may be more likely to stay with the team in 2018.
Carroll was asked directly if there's any reason to think Thomas wouldn't be on the roster next year, he didn't shoot the idea down.
"Earl had a terrific year, a really good year," Carroll said. "Marvelous job recovering from his injury, and coming back. Shocked us with his return, but I shouldn't have been shocked with how competitive he was. I shouldn't have been surprised by that. But I just thought it was such a big injury that it would take him longer. But from the first day he jumped back on the practice field he shouldn't have been out there, but he was. And he never really backed off that. He had a marvelous season, and here he is going to the Pro Bowl again, and he deserves it."
Thomas had a pair of unusual circumstances late in the year. He openly questioned whether Bobby Wagner should have played against the Los Angeles Rams due to his injured hamstring. Wagner fired back at Thomas on Twitter for the comments before deleting the tweets and apologizing days later.
Thomas also ran after Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett after their win in Week 16 telling the coach "come get me" if there was an opportunity presented.
"Earl had some media glitches along the way here (chuckles)," Carroll said. But that's not his...that's not in his wheelhouse right there. He's a ball player."
Carroll did reference Thomas in talking about building the team around Thomas, Wagner and K.J. Wright on defense. But it still feels as though something is going to give in the secondary as the team looks to turn the page to the future.
3. Malik McDowell ever being able to play for the Seahawks seems to be in serious doubt.
Defensive tackle Malik McDowell - the team's top selection in last year's NFL Draft - missed all of the season after being seriously injured in an ATV accident in mid-July.
He spent the entire season on the non-football injury list and the team has provided limited details on the full extent of his injuries. Carroll didn't have much of an update on Tuesday either.
"There's not much I can tell you," Carroll said. "He had a traumatic accident, and it took a big toll. At this point, we don't know any more than...nothing has changed in the evaluation. This young man's future is in the balance of whatever the doctors say and what he can and is capable of doing. We really don't know. At this point, we have to just wait."
Sheldon Richardson said Monday that the Seahawks have told him they want him back next season. Carroll confirmed that desire as well.
"If we could be fortunate enough to get Sheldon back, that would be huge," he said.
With Jarran Reed and Nazair Jones in place, McDowell being healthy and able to play would significantly lessen the team's need to bring back Richardson as it would create a redundancy at the position. Their obvious desire to get Richardson back next year would seem to indicate a real doubt that McDowell will be available.
McDowell sustained a serious concussion and additional injuries in the accident. Details beyond that are lacking at this point. It seems the Seahawks are preparing as though he won't be available to them in 2018.
4. Some changes to the coaching staff won't be a surprise.
Carroll went out of his way on Tuesday - both on his radio show and in his meeting with reporters - to try and put a human element on the decisions to come within the organization and on the roster.
When asked about any possible changes to the coaching staff, Carroll noted some guys are being interviewed for jobs across the league, but then turned to human impact job decisions have.
"I think a lot of respect is to be dealt to these guys," Carroll said. "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, but other than that there’s not much to be said about that at this point."
The Seahawks have not made any decisions regarding the coaching staff in the immediate aftermath of the season. In fact, they haven't made many decisions to change the staff during the entirety of Carroll's tenure.
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was fired after just one year with Darrell Bevell being hired in 2011. Dan Quinn, Gus Bradley, Marquand Manuel, Todd Wash, Ken Norton and others have left for other jobs across the league. Kippy Brown and Rocky Seto have retired from coaching and Sherman Smith was let go as running backs coach after last season. But forced change on the staff has been limited.
It's unlikely there will be significant overhaul to the coaching ranks, but the shortcomings of the team this season could provoke some turnover.
"It's frustrating and disappointing that here we are talking about a football season and we should still be playing. But we didn't get the job done to get that done," Carroll said.
5. Quick Hits.
-- Carroll said Richard Sherman would have a second surgery in the coming weeks. Sherman is healing well after Achilles surgery in November. However, he needs issues addressed in his other leg as well before next season.
It will be a four-to-six week thing he thinks. But he's going to take care of himself to make sure that he's right," Carroll said. "... There's bone spurs and things like that. He's got a cleanup job that he needs to do. He had a problem on both sides throughout the year."
-- Chancellor and Cliff Avril could both be done with football. Carroll was asked if there was any more he could say about the future of the two players.
"Honestly I really can't," Carroll said. "I shouldn't say anymore than we don't know yet. I don't know. I don't know what to tell you there. Both those guys are marvelous people and competitors and all that. We'd love to see them through the rest of their career. I don't know what's going to happen there.
"Whatever those guys decide will be the right thing whatever direction they go. They got such great brains and character and all that stuff that they'll make great choices and we'll support them whatever that is."
-- Dion Jordan will have a bigger role next year if he's back with the Seahawks. Jordan is a restricted free agent but Seattle will be positioned well to keep him next season.
"he is just getting started," Carroll said. "He is a brand new player coming up and the opportunity now to be in this off season, he is healthy coming out of the season so he can work hard to develop and get better is really positive and we don’t know what the limit is but we are really excited about it.
Jordan had four sacks in five games with the Seahawks this season after coming off the non-football injury list in November. Jordan said he wanted to be back as well and added he wasn't sure he would have been able to make a return like he did anywhere else in the league.
"It would be a pleasure (to be back)," Jordan said.
-- Carroll said the societal conversation and protests during the national anthem that sparked backlash and criticism from the White House and elsewhere did have an effect on the team leading into their Week 3 game against the Tennessee Titans.
"I think it had an affect in the game out there that week in Tennessee," Carroll said. "I think it had an effect on a lot of teams and a lot of players. That was an extraordinarily heated time. I think that was a different amount of emotional output that occurred before the game and it looked like it the way we played. It looked like it took its toll. ... We couldn't avoid it, we needed to face it and had to deal with it."
Photo Credit: JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks watches from the sidelines during the first half of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 10, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)