RENTON, Wash. – Pete Carroll was thrilled to be in the postseason but knew it was a mirage.
Two seasons ago, in his first venture back in the NFL from the college game, Carroll guided the Seattle Seahawks into the postseason with the dubious distinction of being the only team in NFL history to win a division title with a losing record. Seattle at least showed itself worthy of the playoffs by upsetting New Orleans, but was dispatched at Chicago in the second round.
Carroll knew the Seahawks needed to be younger, faster, more athletic and deeper. A makeover was needed.
“We’re just so much deeper now and we’ve raised these guys in the program and I just think there’s a common feel that we’re on the same page,” Carroll said Monday.
When the Seahawks (11-5) face Washington in Sunday’s playoff opener, they’ll have 33 new faces on the 53-man roster from two seasons ago. The moves were drastic in some areas and subtle in others.
No matter what the changes were, it’s made Seattle a far better and more deserving team. Carroll said he believes the type of success the Seahawks found in reaching at least 11 wins for just the third time in franchise history should have come sooner.
Ultimately, it was the decision to draft Russell Wilson in the third round that finally made them a legitimate contender.
“It’s been three terrific years for us in retooling the program and the roster and the staff and getting everything right,” Carroll said. “We really feel the momentum in the youth and the hopefulness for the future is there.”
When that 2010 playoff appearance came the Seahawks’ way, they were a flawed team, fortunate to play in the worst division in football at that time.
Carroll’s defensive philosophies were still being implemented and the offense was a jumbled mess. There was little continuity on the offensive line. Marshawn Lynch had arrived in a trade from Buffalo but Seattle had yet to figure out the best ways to use its new bruising back. Most importantly, the quarterback position was unsettled with Matt Hasselbeck the entrenched veteran and Charlie Whitehurst the upstart.
They were rarely competitive, losing by an average margin of 21 points in their nine losses. Only one of their seven regular-season wins came against a team that finished with a winning record.
Fast-forward and while still having some flaws, this Seattle team is far more complete. The defense finished the season the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, giving up just 15.3 points per game.
Offensively, the Seahawks have morphed offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system around what Wilson does best, using his athleticism and quickness as a threat to complement Lynch’s violent running. Lynch’s success is largely because of the zone-blocking schemes implemented by assistant head coach Tom Cable.
“We’re young and we’re fast and we’re tough and we’ve created a physical nature about us that we’re really proud of,” Carroll said. “It goes from offense to defense to special teams.”