December 4, 2011 in Sports

Carroll moves Seahawks in right direction

Jerry Brewer Seattle Times
 
Associated Press photo

Pete Carroll’s signals may be hard to decipher, but his Seahawks show progress.
(Full-size photo)

Pete Carroll is the stubborn male driver who won’t stop to ask for directions. Scream all you want that he’s going the wrong way. He’s not listening. He believes too much in his way. And unlike the typical stubborn male driver, Carroll might actually arrive at his destination in a timely manner.

Despite causing some early-season consternation, the Seahawks’ coach and executive vice president has his team in position to maximize this rebuilding season. The Seahawks, who have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, have won three of their last four games to rise from among the league’s worst to among its most promising. At 5-7, they have four games remaining, starting Dec. 12 against St. Louis, and if they can finish well, it would mark an encouraging turnaround and perhaps signal the end of the most painful part of this transition.

There are still major, complicated problems to solve, most notably how to find a franchise quarterback. But even though Carroll and general manager John Schneider are unconventional at times, not to mention unafraid to do the unpopular, they’re remodeling this franchise without suspending competitiveness for prolonged stretches.

The standard of success this season is progress, and the Seahawks have undoubtedly developed over the course of the season. In fact, they’re primed to be the first Seahawks team to show significant improvement throughout the year since the 2005 Super Bowl squad.

It seems stunning, but it’s true. Look at 2006 to 2010. The Seahawks had a better second-half record in only one of those seasons. In 2007, they started 4-4, then went 6-2 down the stretch, but they also benefited from facing a slew of backup quarterbacks to close that year.

In 2006, they started 5-3 and closed 4-4. In 2008, Mike Holmgren’s swan season, they started 2-6 and closed 2-6. In 2009: 3-5, 2-6. Last season: 4-4, 3-5.

This season, they started 2-6 and looked a mess, but they’ve won three of four. Their Final Four games include two teams that are clearly worse than them in St. Louis and Arizona, one scrambling to keep it together without its starting quarterback (Chicago) and the new beast of the NFC West (San Francisco). You can never be sure with these Seahawks, but it’s realistic to think they can match last season’s 7-9 record. Of course, a playoff berth won’t come attached.

It’s nothing to celebrate, but if you consider the big picture – that the Seahawks wanted to get as young as possible this season to expedite their rebuilding plan – then they’ve done a solid job of remaining a functional team while looking toward the future.

It hasn’t always been that way. Following a lockout-shortened preseason, they were especially unwatchable in the first month of the season. Still, their progress has become evident.

You see it in a young secondary, featuring two rookie cornerbacks and two second-year safeties, that has exceeded expectations and added another dimension to this defense. You see it in a front seven that is becoming fearsome, with 330-pound defensive end Red Bryant serving as the anchor. You see it in the eye-opening versatility of running back Marshawn Lynch and the development of second-year receiver Golden Tate and the stabilization of the offensive line despite numerous injuries.

The Seahawks are deeper. They have had to put 12 players on injured reserve this season, and left tackle Russell Okung, who has a torn pectoral muscle, will soon become No. 13.

Give Carroll credit for keeping them on the right path, even if you weren’t sure what path he was taking.

The Seahawks aren’t there yet, wherever there is. But it’s becoming easier to trust them. That includes the man behind the wheel.


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